Georgia's growing presence
Dec 31, 2010 by Erin France
A row of newly planted Georgia Highbeam overcup oaks welcomes visitors to Tiger Lane outside Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tenn. The trees were provided by an Oconee County grower.
It’s not a home-field advantage, but when the Bulldogs arrive at the stadium for today’s Liberty Bowl, little pieces of Georgia will greet them outside – dozens of oak trees flanking a lawn used for tailgating.
The 162 trees were grown in Bishop and Crawford by Oconee County-based tree wholesaler Select Trees, and were shipped to Tennessee early this month in time for planting before this afternoon’s game against the University of Central Florida, said company Vice President Matt Nielson.
Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. in Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis.
The oak trees, a cultivar known as Highbeam overcup oaks, aren’t the traditional sapling-size; they already are 18 to 22 feet tall, Nielson said.
“I think the biggest benefit to the average person is the shade … both now and 50 years from now, fans from whatever team are going to be tailgating underneath the shade of those trees,” he said.
The company trains its trees to withstand the shock of replanting – a change that can kill some plants – by cutting off its roots while it’s still young. The tree then re-grows its roots in a way that makes it easier to dig up and replant somewhere else.
The technique is known as root pruning, and can enable arborists to transplant trees as big as 40 feet tall, Nielson said.
Overcup oaks are popular trees for cities because they can survive in asphalt parking lots, he said.
It’s cheaper to buy good trees that last than to keep buying trees that die, Nielson said.
“We spent a lot of time educating people who influence tree decisions about the value of planting high quality trees that are set up to thrive in an urban condition,” he said. “That’s why (the landscape architects) came all the way from Memphis to purchase trees in Georgia.”
Overcup oaks – so named because the “cup” of the acorn covers most of the nut – also are popular on the University of Georgia campus, including the big tree outside Memorial Hall, though it’s not a Highbeam overcup.
The Highbeam is a cultivar – a specific variety of overcup oak – that was chosen for its durability, beauty and other qualities and propagated by Michael Dirr, a retired UGA horticultural professor.
“The bottom line on the tree is it’s unkillable,” said Dirr, who also is known in the horticultural community for his work in breeding hydrangeas that bloom more than once in the same season.
Select Trees trademarked the Highbeam and is the largest distributor of the cultivar, although several other nurseries also sell it.
Select Trees donated hundreds of trees to UGA in honor of Dirr’s daughter, Susy Dirr, and will continue to donate different trees for the next eight years. Susy Dirr graduated from UGA in 1999 and died from cystic fibrosis in 2008.
Tagged: uga, university of georgia, select sustainable tree trust, shade trees, select sustainableplus trees, liberty bowl, memphis, tennessee, campus trees, regreening campus, suzy dirr, michael dirr, honorary tree planting