Swing tree still sick as UConn applies treatment

The iconic swing tree’s days are numbered. (Vanita Patel/ The Daily Campus)

UConn’s famous “swing tree” next to Mirror Lake will continue to undergo treatment to preserve its health while a search continues for a new swing tree, according to UConn tree experts.

The swing tree’s poor condition was confirmed in President Susan Herbst’s welcome-back address from Aug. 28 in UConn Today. According to Herbst, UConn arborists will being taking the necessary steps to nurse the tree back to good health.

Last spring, tree specialists discovered that the top of the tree had trouble leafing out. Currently, the tree appears to be dull and somber. The leaves are dehydrated and the branches are droopy, according to UConn tree experts.

Thomas Worthley, an associate extension professor at the UConn Cooperative Extension Service and the UConn Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, said the tree’s declining health developed from a series of natural complications.

“Several factors are involved, including soil compaction, high salinity of the water in the pond (and adjacent soil moisture) and a late winter 2018 warm spell and sudden cold snap that may have caused some ‘top kill’ injury to the tree,” Worthley said in an email. “The tree might have been able to cope fine with one of these stressors, but the combination has resulted in a weakened tree that is susceptible now to a host of other opportunistic pathogens and problems.”

UConn tree specialists have implemented a treatment plan to help improve the swing tree’s health, Aris Ristau, director of Building Services, said.

The soil around the tree will be given organic soil enhancer and biostimulants to help nurture the health and growth of the tree. Tree experts have also been aerating the surrounding soil so the water can reach the major root area, according to UConn Today.

The tree’s current health problems are a result of water stress. Water stress is when water struggles to make its way through compact soil to reach the significant spots of the tree’s roots, according to UConn officials of Facilities Operations & Building Services.

Ristau and faculty have already removed the swings from the branches and initiated a search for a potential new swing tree for the campus.

“The spot that had been tentatively identified as a secondary location was compromised,” Ristau said. “We are now exploring other options to bring the swing back.”

Since the addition of two swings on the branches of the tree in 2010, students have found the “swing tree” to be an iconic location at UConn. Some students have expressed their concern for the tree’s future.

“The swing tree has always been a beautiful place for students across campus to de-stress. It’s a unique and personal part of UConn that we all value deeply,” Caitlin Vellios, a fifth semester nursing student, said. “Seeing the tree strung with holiday lights always brought smiles and excitement to anyone who saw it. I truly hope our swing tree can be saved because it means so much to the campus community.”

Even some first-year students have expressed their sorrow about the tree’s current health, as they have not spent enough time with the tree.

“On orientation weekend, I went to the swing tree with my friends and we loved it. But now, I feel really sad since it’s dying, and I wish I had more time to hang out by it,” Moriah Pardo, a first semester art history major, said. “I really hope that they can improve the tree’s health condition, or at least find a new swing tree.”

UConn tree experts will continue to observe how the tree’s leaves react to the autumn weather, Ristau said. In the spring, tree experts will perform another biostimulant treatment and then keep an eye on whether the tree’s leaves bud out.

“We know how important it is to the community, and we’re making sure we’re doing whatever we can to try to keep the tree healthy,” Ristau said in a statement.


Jude Infante is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at jude.infante@uconn.edu.