Moving the Magnolia

Making way for the new building | VIDEO

By Abigail Beshkin

Photograph by Dorothy Hong

For decades, a much loved magnolia tree has thrived in its spot on Lehman Lawn, showing off its magnificent pink blooms for the campus each spring. When the construction team responsible for the new teaching and learning center realized the tree was within the footprint of the new building and would have to be moved, they called in experts to see what could be done.

In November, an able team of arborists from Bartlett Tree Experts, alongside Barnard specialists, successfully relocated the magnolia about 30 feet away, to a spot next to The Diana Center terrace. Preparation for the move started over the summer. The tree received additional mulching and pruning, and the arborists used high-pressure air to remove dirt from the root ball, allowing easier access to the roots. As a precaution, Barnard’s greenhouse manager, Nick Gershberg, took cuttings from the tree to produce clones. Two formed roots, and have been potted; they will winter at the Arthur Ross Greenhouse.

A hole was then dug for the magnolia’s new home. Arborists bound the root ball in burlap and built a lift frame around the tree’s canopy. The experts attached the frame to a crane, then lifted the tree and placed it in its new hole. Mulched and watered, the tree was staked to the ground so it can’t topple over during windy conditions.

In its new home, the tree is being monitored closely. In a few months, it’s expected that the bulbs that have already grown on the tree this fall will once again open, producing the beautiful pink blossoms that are harbingers of spring.