One of five oak trees planted this spring as part of The University of Southern Mississippi’s campus restoration plan has been removed.
According to Loren Erickson, superintendent of campus landscape, the tree failed due to improper drainage underneath the tree.
“The determination was made that the drainage underneath the tree somehow failed to get the water away from it, and so it had standing water,” Erickson said.
The trees cost approximately $125,000, but have a one-year warranty so no money will be lost in replacing the failed oak tree.
The university assembled an investigative team to discover the cause of the tree’s failure. The team included professionals from the Mississippi State Department of Forestry, a professor of biological sciences at USM, and Erickson, a certified arborist.
“We won’t know [what happened to the drain] until we remove the root ball,” Erickson said. “There’s about 9,000 pounds sitting on top of it.”
For now, the tree has been cut flush with the ground. Erickson said the 400-cubic-foot root ball will remain in the ground until it’s time to replace it with a new tree.
Jerry DeFatta, executive director of the alumni association, said the only unfortunate part of all this is replacing the tree.
“If you saw us put in the trees initially, you know we’re going to hate having to go through that process again,” DeFatta said.
The USM Alumni Association’s $100,000 donation was key in acquiring the new oak trees.
“Even though we were kind of trying to put our lives back together as a staff and as an organization, it was important to us that the front part of that campus be invested in pretty quickly because that’s the first thing people see when they come to Hattiesburg,” DeFatta said.
According to Erickson and DeFatta, the remaining four trees are doing fine.
The tree is expected be replaced within the next planting window in late fall.