The 80-plus-year-old sycamore tree at the center of North Augusta’s Sharon Jones Amphitheater will be interred.

Nearly 20 different attempts to save it over the past two years have failed, and the final blow was dealt earlier this month when an attempt to prune it and remove dead wood instead revealed a rodent mold infestation. The tree has been fenced off since the discovery and is expected to fall next week.

Rachelle Moody, deputy city administrator of North Augusta, said the city had three different arborists doing assessments on the tree and each of them reported with the conclusion that it wouldn’t last the season.

Black lesions found in the tree canopy are evidence of a phytophthora infestation (pronounced[phy-TOFF-ora]), said Roy Kibler. He is superintendent of property maintenance for North Augusta.[phy-TOFF-ora)infestationsaidRoyKiblerHeissuperintendentofpropertymaintenanceforNorthAugusta[phy-TOFF-ora)infestationsaidRoyKiblerHeissuperintendentofpropertymaintenanceforNorthAugusta

The amount of dead wood Arbor Equity found in the canopy was “much greater” than previously assumed, Kibler said. Phytophthora lesions and cracks in tree stems also became known at this time.

“He’s an old tree, and with all the building, it was a 50-50 shot, he was going to do it,” Kibler said. “Stress is probably the number one cause; and of construction, any time you have construction around a big, mature tree like that, you will stress the tree.

Building activity around a mature tree can compact the soil covering its critical root structure, Kibler said. The problem is then compounded when pathogens – such as phytophthora mold spores – take hold after excessive rainfall.

According to the tree’s maintenance report, the city has air-fracking, or breaking up the ground by blowing air into it, five times since September 2019. Other tree-saving activities have included injections of organic matter (“to really try to push fibrous root growth,” Kibler said) and termite and borer treatments.

But the progression of dead wood in the canopy has sounded the death knell.

“If all the dead wood were removed from the tree, there wouldn’t be enough living wood left to maintain the heather of the tree; there wouldn’t be enough leaf tissue to photosynthesize and keep the tree alive,” Kibler said. “It’s unfortunate, but it’s a living being and it has a life expectancy.”

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At a recent council business meeting, officials said the tree had been in distress for some time and that its decline was not caused by the construction of the amphitheater or the Riverside Village development.

“When construction started – the stadium and before the amphitheater was built – just let the record know that this tree was in question for its survival at the time,” council member David McGhee said.

The city has yet to decide what will happen to the amphitheater’s empty space, but officials said additional planting is likely, even to the point of bringing in another large tree.

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