Changes underway to preserve Friendship Oak


Austin O'Brien

Friendship Oak is currently off limits to all students as preservation efforts begin to be underway.

Friendship Oak has been a campus staple for nearly a century, and efforts are now underway to preserve the tree for future generations. 

The tree, located at the heart of campus in Friendship Circle, has been the subject of a long-running urban legend: if a couple kisses under the tree, they are destined to get married. The area was often used as a place for romantic rendezvous, and while the tree became known as Friendship Oak, the name was just a coy term for what was actually the hottest “courting” spot on campus.

SLU has brought the Grounds, Landscape and Recycling Manager Carlos Doolittle and Consulting Arborist Malcolm Guidry to provide recommendations for the preservation of Friendship Oak. The main concern lies with the tree’s roots, which may be impacted by absorbing too much water and the foot traffic in the area.

“The drainage improvements and soil remediation will require working in the root zone of the tree with a tool called an AirSpade. Pressurized air from the tool is used to erode away soil to open trenches without damaging tree roots. The trenches will be used to install French drains and to backfill with improved soil and organic material,” Doolittle said.

Drainage of the roots is important for the tree’s growth because otherwise the roots will be deprived of oxygen. 

Repairs to the tree will begin with removing compacted mulches underneath the tree’s canopy and adding wood chips under the canopy to improve the soil’s quality. This job, along with the root drainage, will be done by Bob’s Tree Preservation and Nursery.

Foot traffic around the tree will be restricted while these improvements are being made and a barrier will be installed around the tree until completion. In addition to barriers, sidewalks will be relocated to encourage lateral branches to grow. Protective accessories like lightning protection cables will be reinstalled by Bob’s Tree Preservation and Nursery. 

Next fall and winter, groundcovers are to be planted in the newly fertilized areas under Friendship Oak. Ground cover plants are planned to be beneficial to the tree and will further discourage foot traffic on the roots.