COPPER BEECH TREE PROJECT
Our Beloved Campus Copper Beech Tree
August 27, 2021
Each year there are many ways in which we mark the arrival of fall on campus. The return of our students, the cooling temperatures, and the changing color of the leaves on our beloved beech tree. But just as generations of Lincoln students have grown up on this beautiful campus, so too has the beech tree, and it is with sadness and immense gratitude for all it has given us that I write to you today to say our beech tree has reached the end of its life. After years of care and stewardship, including 8 years of targeted treatments by arborists and facilities staff, this majestic landmark has at last succumbed to pervasive infestations common to beech trees throughout the area. For the safety of our campus and the greater community, the tree is scheduled to be removed in late November.
While our front lawn’s distinctive appearance will change, this is a reminder for us all that our community inhabits a larger ecosystem, ever-changing and magnificent. As a Quaker institution, this moment calls us to the second S of our SPICES—Stewardship. And just as stewardship seeks to preserve, it also seeks to appreciate the natural environmental cycles and to learn from them.
To that end, Lincoln School will approach this albeit sad milestone as an opportunity to do what Lincoln does best—set the stage for deep learning. Through custom-designed units, students will have a chance to engage in scientific inquiry, artistic expression, and outdoor classroom adventures tied to the removal of the tree. One class may focus on how the changing local climate is impacting regional vegetation. Another may explore the history of the tree and dating its origin through historical records. Yet another group may explore the tree as an artistic medium.
Saying goodbye can be melancholy for many, therefore we are already looking towards the future. A committee is in place to propose new landscape features for our front lawn. We are eager to invite our larger community into the conversation as we move closer to that juncture.
Please join me in reflection on the beauty of nature—on our resplendent campus and in our own backyards—with the words of Mary Oliver.
When I Am Among the Trees
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It's simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”
Sophie Glenn Lau ’88
Head of School
The Copper Beech Tree’s Diagnosis
About a decade ago, the Preservation Society of Newport County faced similar challenges with its storied beech trees along Bellevue Avenue and in other parts of Newport’s mansion district. The culprits were the same—a non-native habitat not ideally suited to the species and pest infestations.
Phytophthora, a fungus, and Litylenchus crenatae, a kind of roundworm, are both common to the European copper beech, or Fagus sylvatica purpurea, and have shortened the lifespan of the tree in the U.S. to about 120 years at the outside (compared to 300 to 400 years in its native European habitats).
The University of Massachusetts, Amherst describes the effects of Phytophthora, or bleeding canker, as death of “the bark and outer sapwood tissues of trees and shrubs. The most prominent symptom of the disease is dark-colored sap oozing from bark cankers.”
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation notes that Litylenchus crenatae, or beech leaf disease, affects and kills both native and ornamental beech tree species. “Symptoms of this disease are seen in the leaves and include striping, curling, and/or leathery texture. These symptoms may be visible from leaf out in May until leaves fall off in October and are most easily noticed by looking up into the forest canopy. In early infestations, only a few leaves may be affected. Eventually, affected leaves wither, dry, and yellow. Reduced leaf and bud production may also occur. Leaf loss has been recorded only in heavily affected trees, but would be noticeable in summer months. A single tree can contain both heavily infected and unaffected branches.”
Sources and Further Reading
- European Beech (Fagus sylvatica)
- Landscape: Phytophthora Bleeding Canker | UMass Center for Agriculture, Food, and the Environment
- Guide Beech Leaf Disease in Massachusetts
- Beech Leaf Disease - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation
- European Copper Beech with a Weeping Twist — Newport Tree Conservancy
- Trouble for Gilded-Age Beech Trees in Newport, Rhode Island – New York Times
Updated: August 26, 2021
BE PART OF THE STORY
Welcome to the home of the Lincoln School Copper Beech Tree Project. We will be updating this page with news and information as the project develops.
Check this page often for:
- logistical information about the removal,
- updates on academic curriculum related to the tree and its removal, and
- and much more!
Do you have a special memory or historical pictures of the Copper Beech you would like to share with the community? Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I think of the trees and how simply they let go, let fall the riches of a season, how without grief (it seems) they can let go and go deep into their roots for renewal and sleep.... Imitate the trees. Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember that nothing stays the same for long ...