When you can’t hug a human

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It may be some time before we’ll be shaking hands or hugging each other again on campus. But there is another populous species at the University that you can commune with. Trees!

Sussex Estates and Facilities have just carried out their five-yearly survey of more than 1200 trees on the campus estate. This involves recording details of individual tree height, spread, age, diameter and any signs of disease.

Many were growing before the first concrete pillars appeared on site. Now the dozens of varieties include statuesque elms, ancient yews, traditional oaks and exotic Indian bean trees.

We all know how vital trees are for the future health of the planet. But the growing trend for the Japanese practice of ‘ forest bathing’ is a reminder of how essential they can be for our own mental well-being.

Here are some of the campus beauties you may wish to get to know better.

1. Opposite the steps to the Meeting House is one of campus’s many stunning ash trees that create a beautiful canopy. Tragically, ash trees are under threat from a disease called ash dieback , which has the potential to kill 90 per cent of the UK’s ash population. There is hope, however. Sussex biochemist Professor Tony Moore is working on a fungicide that could stop the disease in its tracks.

2. The mulberry tree on the lawn outside the Library, has draping branches and an inviting, mysterious interior - especially when it’s in fruit in late August/early September. Pick enough berries before others get to them and you can make wine, jam, tea - or eat them dried as a snack. In Asia and India the trees are grown for their leaves, which is the staple diet of silkworms.

3. Jessica Horne, who’s studying for a PhD in management, is an admirer of the Indian bean trees t hat occupy a corner of the Arts A quad. Despite the name, the tree doesn’t come from India and nor does it produce beans. It originated in the United States and was introduced to the UK in the 18th century. It has remarkably large leaves and is at its most spectacular when in flower in July.

4. You can find copper beeches, with their distinctive reddish leaves, all over campus. This pair is just to the north west for the Arts A quad.

5. Maria Melo, who’s studying for an MA in Social Development, was curious to explore the ‘hole’ elm outside Bramber House. This hollow stump is all that’s left of an elm that had succumbed to Dutch Elm disease. It had to be pruned in February 2019 to prevent the spread of the disease. Campus has a rare population of 31 English elms (Ulmus procera), 22 of which have been classified as mature.

6. For the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, the University received this oak tree sapling that was cultivated from an acorn collected from The Crown Estate. It was planted in one of the two raised grass areas in front of the Jubilee Building.

7. This huggable Corsican pine, on the path between York House and the current Health Centre, adds a southern European flavour to campus. Distinguished by its dark, spiny foliage and shiny cones, it can live up to 500 years and grows to a height of nearly 30 metres.

8. The hybrid poplar at the back of Sussex House is a showstopper. While those who work in the north-facing or east-facing offices admire it through the seasons, it attracts many other devotees, from guitar-paying duos leaning against its trunk to strum, to martial arts practitioners tuning into its spiritual energy. A word of warning: despite its low branches, it’s devilishly difficult to climb.

9.The distinctive bark on this wild cherry tree, which is grows in a seating area to the south of JMS, exemplifies the unbeatable beauty of nature. Take a closer look and be amazed.

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By: Jacqui Bealing
Last updated: Friday, 14 August 2020


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