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February 3rd, 2012
Texas State to remove bur oak tree at River House


A bur oak tree growing in the parking lot of the River House on the Texas State University campus is at critical risk of failure and will be removed on Feb. 11.

Concerns about the tree arose in January 2011 when Texas State grounds staff discovered a fungus growing at its base. The university hired Bartlett Tree Experts to examine the tree and make recommendations for its long term management.

The fungus was identified as a type of polypore, which is associated with root decay. Additionally, Bartlett arborists determined the bur oak and, to a lesser extent, two nearby live oaks were being adversely affected by the gravel parking lot at the River House. The bur oak grows in the parking lot and the live oaks are immediately adjacent.

“The parking lot was originally built in the 1930s when the River House was constructed as an American Legion hall,” said Nancy Nusbaum, associate vice president for planning at Texas State. “For more than half a century, their root systems have likely been enduring compacted soils, reduced water infiltration and overall substandard conditions for proper root growth.”

Discussions between the university and the city of San Marcos began in February 2011 concerning the relocation of the parking lot. A new lot is currently being designed and work is expected to begin in May. It will be located behind the River House along C.M. Allen Parkway.

While relocating the parking lot will result in a healthier habitat for the live oak trees, a thorough structural examination of the bur oak conducted in March 2011 using sound wave and resistograph technology revealed significant decay and that the tree was at critical risk of failure. Additional core sampling of the lower trunk and selected buttress roots conducted in December 2011 confirmed the earlier findings about the tree.

It was determined that relocating the parking lot would not save the bur oak, and a report from Bartlett recommended its removal because it poses “a hazard to life and property.”

The technical reports on the bur oak evaluation and assessment are available here. According to representatives of the Texas Forest Service who have participated in the examination of the bur oak and live oaks, the bur oak is not thelegendary “Kissing Oak” linked to Sam Houston when he made a campaign stop in San Marcos while running for governor in 1857.

That tree is believed to have been a live oak – and may be one of the two live oaks adjacent to the River House parking lot. There is also speculation that the “Kissing Oak” may actually refer to a grove of live oaks that grew at the site. That grove is now represented by the two remaining live oaks at the edge of the parking lot.

For more information on the Sam Houston “Kissing Oak,” see the Texas Forest Service’s website on the matter.

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