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    29. Arizona 'Great Trees' Named at UA


    (Front) The Chorisia insignis may be the largest and oldest of its species in the state with a trunk circumference of more than 10 feet. (Above) This ancient African sumac (Rhus lancea), located between Maricopa and Yuma residence halls on the northern edge of the UA historic district, was planted in 1928.

    By Susan McGinley

    March 31, 2003

    For the second year, three unique trees on the UA campus have been designated Great Trees of Arizona by the Arizona Community Tree Council. They include a silk floss tree, an African sumac and a fever tree. Nominations were made on behalf of the University of Arizona Campus Arboretum.

    On April 9, in celebration of Arizona Arbor Day, the Arizona Community Tree Council will hold a "Tree City USA" awards ceremony at the Arizona State Capitol. UA Arboretum Director Elizabeth Davison will accept commemorative plaques for placement at the base of each tree.

    The designation refers to any individual tree or group of trees considered to be of local, state, national or international significance. Tree are selected based on criteria that may include a unique history, great age, extraordinary size, or because they are a rare or unusual species. The Arizona Community Tree Council promotes preservation of Great Trees in Arizona.

    "The big, fat white silk floss tree, south of Engineering near Old Main, is the largest and oldest of its species in the state, and maybe the entire Southwest," Davison says. It measures 37 feet tall, with a 40-foot canopy and a trunk circumference of more than 10 feet. Also known as Chorisia insignis, bottle tree or palo borracho, the rare tree is native to southern Brazil and Argentina. Its original planting date was not recorded, but Professor Emeritus Steve Fazio remembers this stately giant as being large and healthy when he arrived on campus in 1940. The UA Herbarium has a 1957 specimen that includes a pressed flower from that exact tree.

    "It’s winter deciduous, but even as the leaves drop in late fall, the creamy lily-sized flowers remain through December or January if not damaged by frost," Davison says.


    The state’s largest fever tree (Acacia xanthophloea) stands 38 feet tall, and is at the southwest corner of Cochise Hall, near Fourth Street and Park Avenue.

    The ancient African sumac (Rhus lancea), located between Maricopa and Yuma residence halls on the northern edge of the UA historic district, was planted in 1928 by Homer Shantz, a former UA president. Although the species is not unusual and is now considered undesirable, the value of this individual tree lies in its unique history, according to Davison.

    After Shantz collected the seeds in South Africa in 1919 they were propagated in Chico, Calif., then installed on the UA campus in 1928. “This makes this tree the first African sumac planted in Tucson, for better or worse,” Davison says. Another was installed at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Superior, Ariz., at about the same time. The tree’s current estimated height is 33 feet.

    The state’s largest fever tree (Acacia xanthophloea) stands 38 feet tall, and is located at the southwest corner of Cochise Hall, near 4th Street and Park Avenue. As the only specimen planted on campus by Warren Jones in the 1980s, this rare tree is another example of an experiment that succeeded beyond all hopes, Davison says.

    "Although it's supposedly tender here, it’s actually thriving and is always a source of curiosity with its yellow powdery bark," Davison says. The species is often used in African safari theme parks.

    - Updated: March 31, 2003


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