News Release Library
June 29, 2011

Root for St. Edward's University to Win City of Austin Tree of the Year Award

Physical Plant teamed up with the Marketing Office to enter three St. Edward’s University trees into the City of Austin Tree of the Year Award. Two tree types are chosen annually: large and small. Naturally, the Sorin Oak was at the top of the list for the large tree category. Tom Dunlap, university arborist, identified two other unique trees on campus for the contest — the St. Joseph Persimmon (small tree) and The Bent Tree (large tree).

The St. Joseph Persimmon is located on thenorthwest side of campus across the street from the front entrance to St. Joseph Hall. The Bent Tree can be found on the northeast corner of Premont Hall.

Dunlap and Willi Chavez, university grounds supervisor, took Jessica Attie, Marketing Office photographer, around campus to photograph all three trees. Attie went to great lengths to shoot captivating images of all the trees, but especially the Sorin Oak. She stood on the Moody Hall roof to capture the Austin skyline behind Sorin Oak.

The award recognizes outstanding trees within the city limits of Austin. This recognition of beautiful and healthy trees provides examples of the benefits of proper tree selection, care and placement. The award was established to identify superior trees that are most valuable and unique to this area. The university submitted the Sorin Oak the last two years. Let’s hope for a win this year!

Here’s more information about the trees that the university is entering into the contest:

Sorin Oak

The Sorin Oak,Quercus fusiformis, at St. Edward’s University stands as an enduring symbol of our vibrant learning community. The Sorin Oak is located next to Main Building — another historic campus landmark — and provides a shaded area to socialize, study or view the ever-changing Austin skyline.

Estimated to be 250–300 years old, Sorin Oak has a DBH (diameter, breast, height) of 67.5” and stands 43 feet tall. The crown spread measures an average 82 feet in diameter. The tree bears the name of Father Edward Sorin, Holy Cross priest and founder of St. Edward’s University and Notre Dame University. Inthe summer of 1877, the Brothers of Holy Cross anticipated Father Sorin’s visit from Notre Dame. A Holy Cross brother wrote Father Sorin saying, “We are already watching in the direction of your big umbrella tree for your coming.”

The Sorin Oak was also known as the “Lone Tree” because, at the time, it was said to be the only tree on the hilltop. It is now the treasured elder in a family of more than 2,000 trees that thrive on the St. Edward’s campus landscape.

A guardian of the St. Edward's campus, Sorin Oak has prevailed through the building of our university, a tornado, a fire, numerous renovations, and continuous campus growth. Sorin Oak reflects the qualities that have allowed St. Edward’s University to grow and flourish since its founding in 1885: firmly-established roots, a commanding vantage point and resiliency in an ever-changing environment. We welcome you to visit our campus and take in the shade of this well-loved tree. The garden area surrounding Sorin Oak is not treated with any pesticides.

St. Joseph Persimmon

While driving down St. Joseph Hill on the northwest side of campus, there is a copse of live oaks on the east side of the road. At a curve in the road across the street from the front entrance to St. Joseph Hall, there is a six-stem Texas Persimmon, Diospyros texana. The average diameter of the six stems is six inches. The persimmon stands 14 and half feet tall. The crown measures an average 25 feet in diameter. The tree is growing in a challenging site on the side of the road on a sun-baked hillside. This persimmon is showing its drought-resistant characteristics very well this year. The dark green leaves are still thick and full when other established trees on campus have started to drop leaves as a defense against losing too much water. Currently the persimmon is full of immature fruit. As they reach maturity, the campus community will be challenged to harvest the wonderful fruit before the squirrels and birds.

The Bent Tree

On the northeast corner of Premont Hall, there is a unique Plateau Live Oak, Quercus fusiformis. From a distance, the tree looks like any other spreading and flowing live oak in central Texas. When the tree is viewed up close from under its broad canopy it is evident that this tree is not like other live oaks. The trunk is bent into a waveform like the letter S laid on its side. As the structure is studied closer, the viewer will see that what was once a limb is now bent back onto itself in a southern direction. The limb grew horizontally for a few years before the ends of the limbs turned back upwards into a more typical live oak growth pattern. Nearby Doyle Hall was built in 1960 and used as a residence hall. In 1964, Premont Hall was built as another residence hall. It is impossible to consider that this tree was not climbed and enjoyed by the nearby residents over time.

There is no definitive story about how the tree was formed into its present shape. One idea is that the tree is an Indian Marker Tree. This is a possibility, but what is the tree marking? The trunk is aligned on a true north bearing. If this line were extended to Lady Bird Lake, it would align with where Lamar Avenue Bridge crosses. Without a witness, we can only guess what might lie along the line. Another idea is that the tree was bent during the tornado that hit the campus in 1922. Either of these stories is possible. Dunlap said it’s evident that this tree is growing in the most atypical natural form that he has ever seen in the whole world and during his 35-year career as an arborist.