As construction on the teaching and learning center gets underway, a team of arborists has been enlisted to move Barnard’s beloved magnolia tree to its new home near The Diana Center terrace, about 30 feet from its current location. Preparing for the move has been a teaching and learning opportunity for students, explain Nicholas Gershberg, coordinator of Barnard’s greenhouse and Professor Hilary Callahan, chair of the biology department, below.
How have you been able to use this tree as a teaching tool, and what have you been able to do with the moving process?
Hilary Callahan: I teach a plant biology and plant diversity lab almost every year, and we use the campus plantings. Whatever people are learning about plants, they always want to apply that knowledge to this tree. And I’m happy to do it, even though it’s not a native tree; it’s just a really classic landscaping tree in this region.
How has the College been involved in preparing the tree for the move?
Nicholas Gershberg: When they started planning this tree move, we thought it would be nice to take clones of the tree. Unlike creating trees from seeds, which involves sexual reproduction of a mother and a father, this involves making an actual genetic clone of the tree by removing part of it and encouraging that part to grow roots. If you look carefully at the tree, there are these little plastic balls within which we’ve put moss, and manipulated the bark in just such a way, and used a particular rooting hormone to encourage roots to grow.
Are the clones still attached to the tree, or have you started moving some of them on their own?
NG: We’ve just noticed that two of them have already formed roots. So we separated them from the tree, and potted them up. They are in the greenhouse on the Milbank roof now, where they will remain through the winter. We'll need to wrap them in plastic and mulch them so wind or low temperatures won’t damage them. The unrooted clones will stay on the tree, and we'll inspect them in the spring when we’ll also likely make more clones.