The University of Texas at Austin
  • The university's urban forest

    By Katherine Kahlke
    Published: April 22, 2011
    A view from the branches of the university's deodar cedar, the largest specimen in the state.Photo: Landscape Services

    For the third consecutive year, the Arbor Day Foundation has recognized The University of Texas at Austin for its dedication to managing campus trees and encouraging the surrounding community to foster healthy urban forests.

    The university was one of the first three campuses in the nation to become a Tree Campus USA in the program’s inaugural year in 2008.

    Larry Maginnis, urban forester and assistant manager in Landscape Services, is the guiding force behind the award-winning forestry program.  His team of arborists and student volunteers catalogue, plant, maintain and protect almost 4,900 trees on the main campus.

    According to Maginnis, the trees have an estimated dollar value of almost $25 million and their value continues to increase. Many of the older trees are irreplaceable and “as old as the buildings or even older,” he said.

    The university's deodar cedar

    The university’s 58-foot deodar cedar on the Littlefied House lawn. Photo: Larry Maginnis

    One such tree is the 58-foot-tall deodar cedar on the lawn of the historic Littlefield House at the southwest corner of 24th Street and Whitis Avenue.  Native to the western Himalayas and the only one of its kind in Austin, the tree has been part of the campus since 1893, when Major George W. Littlefield had it imported and planted next to his home.

    Maginnis submitted the iconic tree to the Texas Forest Service’s Texas Big Tree Registry, which recently recognized the cedar as the largest known specimen of its kind in the state. The registry encourages public appreciation of trees in much the same way that Tree Campus USA aims to engage students, the future stewards of our trees and environment.

    “This tree is just tremendous,” said Jim Carse, Texas Forest Service forester in Austin in a news release. “Its girth really makes the difference when you compare it to other trees of the same species.” Carse officially measured the tree in February. Trees are compared using an index that combines trunk circumference in inches with total height in feet, plus one-quarter of the average crown spread in feet.

    Although it is not native to the area, the cedar has adapted well to the climate and to being in the limelight.

    “It is probably one of the most photographed trees on campus,” Maginnis said, adding that, “Although we have pruned it twice since my tenure here, it doesn’t really receive any additional attention.”

    For this remarkable cedar and the rest of the campus’ urban forest, “there’s this interface between people and nature that we have to keep in balance,” Maginnis said.  The Tree Campus USA designation and Texas Forest Service recognition demonstrate that the university is a leader in achieving that balance.

    • Quote 2
      Dayna said on Nov. 1, 2011 at 6:03 p.m.
      This is my favorite tree!!!!
    • Quote 2
      John said on May 28, 2011 at 3:11 a.m.
      Thanks for sharring your input. Here is something that maybe of interest to all the readers. Give it a try! Jewelry
    • Quote 2
      R Malcolm Brown Jr said on May 10, 2011 at 2:12 p.m.
      Being a botanist and specializing in cellulose and wood biosynthesis, I truly admire the great diversity of trees that we have at UT Austin. The marvelous oaks at the Brackenridge Housing, the beautiful Taxodium trees along Waller Creek, not to mention the diverse botanical display in the back of the biology building next to the biology pond, are reminders that Texas is a great place to live... one of the few states with all of the major ecosystems!
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      Jan Horn said on May 3, 2011 at 11:21 a.m.
      The trees on campus with the population of birds and other wildlife are a significant factor in my enjoyment of 26 years of employment at UT. I am grateful to work next to Waller Creek where those elements have an especially native quality.
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      Jose Marcelo Luna said on May 2, 2011 at 4:46 p.m.
      I've just returned from a six-month period (postdoctorate) at UT Austin but I'll never forget the beauty of the "University's urban forest". UT does deserve the recognition from the Foundation and from all of us.
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      Gerald Lewis said on May 1, 2011 at 6:50 p.m.
      I took piano lessons at Littlefield House in 1957 and 1958 when I was majoring in music at UT. The big tree was there then and looks about the same size. It was beautiful as are all the trees on the UT campus.
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      Polly Husted said on April 28, 2011 at 5:25 p.m.
      This UT retiree has ALWAYS admired the talented handiwork of the UT tree folks. Whether large or small, all trees are loved and well cared for--the 40 Acres are as handsome as any grounds in the kingdom.
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      --helen said on April 28, 2011 at 9:53 a.m.
      When the Blanton and some other buildings were built, I was happy to see the efforts made to save the trees and put them back after the construction. After many years of "taking trees for granted" and often destroying them, bringing Mr. Maginnes on staff has made a tremendous difference in the way trees are treated on our campus. This is valuable for UT and for all of us.
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      Jane said on April 28, 2011 at 9:39 a.m.
      While this is a very nice tree, I encourage UT to plant only native trees that reflect the beauty of the central Texas landscape that is rapidly being altered. I also would love to see the non-native ligustrums -(note the ones at Littlefield) and nandinas removed and replaced by native trees and shrubs. The result? More native birds and butterflies that have co-evolved with and rely on our natives for food and shelter.
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      Dan Hillsman said on April 28, 2011 at 9:14 a.m.
      I enjoyed Karen Hachman's post from April 22nd - Thanks! This article reminded me of some small Ginko trees that my Evolutional Biology Professor Frank Blair showed us on the campus north west of the Painter Hall Biology buildings. In 1979 they were about 4 feet tall. Do they still exist, and if so how large are they?
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      Ricardo Rivera said on April 28, 2011 at 7:53 a.m.
      This was indeed a landmark for me. Since I first visited campus in 1977 this corner always caught my eye. There was something special to the house architecture and this adjacent tree. I fancied it was a cedar of Lebanon, but now I know better. I'm so gratified to know that UT has preserved it and many others.
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      Patricia Reinhadt said on April 28, 2011 at 6:49 a.m.
      No tree on that campus should ever 'have to be destroyed' for construction. These trees are part of the faculty!
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      Camellia said on April 28, 2011 at 12:25 a.m.
      Yes. Other gorgeous tress include the one in the Duren Dormitory couryard that form this humongous umbrella shade almost 50-60% of the courtyard area. Another one that I love is this tree with a nice curve on its branch which actually looks like it was molded as a sun deck chair. It is located behind the horse statue (in front of the Naural history Museum) and is closer towards the northern steps (west if looking towards the 'Mustangs' Statue).
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      Nan said on April 27, 2011 at 1:41 p.m.
      Actually the tree and house are on the northwest corner of the intersection. Magnificent. I've always been very happy UT takes pride in its lovely trees. It's painful when some of them have to be destroyed for the sake of construction.
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      David said on April 27, 2011 at 12:52 p.m.
      Another reason why UT is so great--when the rest of our land is being developed and bulldozed, these people have realized how important trees are! Plus, they emit chemicals that aid our health. (Look up Men's Health for more info on that.) Hook 'em.
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      megan said on April 22, 2011 at 3:50 p.m.
      we sat under the tree at lunch today after i read this article. so beautiful and majestic. thanks!
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      Karen Webb Hachman said on April 22, 2011 at 1:45 p.m.
      John William Calhoun, served as comptroller of the university from 1925 until 1937, when he became president ad interim, a post he held for two years. Per his family history (from his great nephew,Eben Calhoun Wood, Corpus Christi, TX), he brought 175 young live oak trees from his birthplace in Middle Tennessee to be planted on the University of Texas campus during his tenure at UT. Calhoun left in manuscript an account of the trees on the university campus as well as his autobiography of growing up in Tennessee and his life in Texas.
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