"Be-leafing" in a Legendary Tree

"Be-leafing" in a Legendary Tree

Amidst the sweet sun rays of summer we face a season of severe weather - tornadoes, thunderstorms, hurricanes - which unfortunately threatens the health of your trees. No matter how big, small, young or old, trees standing in nearly all regions of the country may experience forceful weather events at any time.

One particular tree residing within a Southern state along the East Coast is certainly no exception.

Although legends, superstitions and scholarly folklore have sprouted from its existence, there's no doubt the Davie Poplar has encountered more than its share of natural disasters. From wind storms, hurricanes and lightning, Mother Nature has clearly tested the integrity, durability and strength of the Davie Poplar, a very large tulip poplar tree rooted at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Davie Poplar Jr.
Davie Poplar, Jr., (pictured above) grew from a shoot of the original Davie Poplar. It stands within a close vicinity to its parent tree - a distance so close Davie Poplar, Jr., may suffer damage if its elder fails to remain standing.

As it continues its fourth century of life, however, the massive Davie Poplar represents more to the Tar Heel community and other campus visitors than the visible damage it has suffered.

At more than 300 years old, the Davie Poplar dates back to the beginning of UNC history. As legend goes, William R. Davie, Revolutionary War general and founder of UNC, had joined a team responsible for discovering the perfect location for the future UNC campus in the late 18th century. On horseback they traveled from the Atlantic coast, across the state of North Carolina, and into the mountains; stopping in what later became the town of Chapel Hill for a picnic lunch.

As Davie examined the surrounding area, he stopped at the base of one majestic tree and then determined the university's future home would start there. Although that large poplar tree was later named after Davie for his so-called responsibility to find a campus location, historical records give credit to the six-man committee from UNC's first governing board that actually chose the site on Dec. 3, 1792.

Davie Poplar III
Davie Poplar III (pictured above) stands to ensure the legacy of the eldest Davie Poplar continues to exist. It grew from the seed of another Davie Poplar tree.

But the UNC community believes in the Davie Poplar's legendary significance so strongly that alumni, students, faculty and staff have convinced themselves the following myth rings true: "As long as the Davie Poplar stands, UNC will always stand."

As a result, the Davie Poplar's caretakers have completed many preventative measures to preserve the tree's structure. Tree care and maintenance crews have hollowed its trunk and filled it with cement to establish better durability. They've counteracted its lean be securing a cable within the canopy. Community members have shared its seedlings throughout the entire state of North Carolina; in fact, each of the state's 100 counties received one Davie Poplar seedling in 1993 to coincide with the university's bicentennial celebration. And even cloning effort have begun as well.

Despite its ailing appearance, the Davie Poplar remains one of the most photographed monuments on the East Coast. Its structure, no matter the tweaks and treatments it's received throughout its existence, will forever symbolize a strong foundation to the scholarly enhancements UNC has witnessed for more than 200 years.

  • Louis Setser June 24, 2013 >Tree care and maintenance crews have hollowed its trunk and filled it with cement to establish better durability.
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