Treeing the Future
Mark Scott stewards campus’ leafy legacy
by Matt Getty
April 1, 2010
Mark Scott offers this bit of expert advice for anyone pruning trees at home: “When you cut a branch, you don’t want to cut flush all the way down to the trunk. You need to leave a little collar at the bottom of the cut so that the tree can heal over that wound. Otherwise, it can’t heal correctly, and the tree will begin to decay.”
As Dickinson’s tree surgeon, Mark Scott has an unusual way of looking at the campus. It’s not just how he eyes the European beech in front of 50 Mooreland for signs of rot from the spread of phytophthora canker. And it’s not how he scans the ash tree outside Morgan Hall for emerald ash borer beetles. It’s how he looks at any of the trees on campus and sees the future.
“I always say when we plant a tree, we’re not planting it for us, we’re planting it for the next generation,” says Scott, who is tasked with caring for the college’s more than 200 trees. “I take a lot of satisfaction in looking at the campus and thinking about how the work we’re doing now will look 15 or 20 years down the road.”
Navigating toward that future, of course, takes a lot of work in the present. Ensuring the trees’ health and safety requires careful pruning and pest management. In addition to watching for those emerald ash borer beetles, Scott has to be on the lookout for the hemlock wooly adelgid, an invasive, aphid-like insect that, if left unchecked, could kill a 70-foot tree in just a year.
“Pest control used to be just about eradication,” says Scott, who studied forestry at Penn State University. “But now we’ve learned it’s more about monitoring and managing pest populations to keep the proper balance in the ecosystem.”
Another part of his job is removing and replanting trees once they have decayed to the point of becoming hazardous. Since some of the trees have been here for more than 150 years, having seen the campus grow and change significantly, replanting can be more complicated than replacing a stump with a sapling.
“It’s a matter of trying to find the best site for each tree,” Scott explains. “For example, if you’re planting on the south side of a building, you’re going to have a warmer microclimate than you’re going to have on the north side. … And you’re not going to want to use a northern red oak [which can grow up to 75 feet tall] as a street tree. So we may not be able to replace a tree exactly where it was, but we’ll look for somewhere else on campus where that tree might do well.”
Then there are trees that have buildings grow up around them. “The foundation of the new Rector building got awfully close to some of the mature trees over there,” says Scott. “There’s a horse chestnut with a diameter of four feet, and the builders came within 10 feet of it, which is way too close for a tree of that size. So far it’s been OK, but that’s definitely a tree we’re keeping an eye on.”
A Carlisle native who grew up enjoying the numerous outdoor attractions in central Pennsylvania, Scott is now looking to add the college campus to the must-see list. He’s planning to create a tree inventory establishing a definitive tally of the trees and tree species here; he also hopes the campus one day will become an official arboretum and that the Tree Campus USA program, which recognizes colleges and universities for effective and sustainable tree management, will grant certification. Recently, Scott helped develop a walking
“Taking care of these trees and showing that we value them sends a message,” he says. “It’s about being a good steward of your environment—taking care of what you have today and protecting it for tomorrow.”
Take a virtual tour of the campus' notable trees with audio commentary from Scott.