Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 9
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Fraternity receives table built from fallen tree

Members of Phi Delta Theta were sad last year when the champion catalpa tree by the their house fell down. Now the tree lives on in the form of a cloned sapling and a picnic table that men from Physical Plant Services built for the fraternity.Fraternity receives table built from fallen tree | Photo by Lauren Hisada

The tree partially toppled in August of 2006 after rotting out over the summer, taking out the power for a few weeks and disappointing frat members.

“We were upset,” said Wes Matlock ’08, president of Phi Delta Theta. “It was a mark of pride for us.”

The tree was the largest catalpa tree in the nation. According to a Moon Handbooks travel guide, it was 21 feet in circumference. “It was probably over a hundred years old,” said Matlock.

The fallen tree was declared a hazard and the Parks and Recreational director ordered its removal. But Whitman College has a policy of putting wood to good use, and with encouragement from Physical Plant Director Dan Park and Assistant to the President Pete Reid, Physical Plant Services decided to build a table from the fallen tree’s wood.
“We worked on it for two days,” said Grounds Supervisor Gary Brown, who helped build the table along with carpenters Wayne Dennis and John Groom.

The table was presented to Phi Delta Theta last week and now rests in the backyard.
“It’s the most beautiful picnic table I’ve ever seen,” said Matlock, whose fellow frat members have been studying outside and barbecuing more.

The tree was also cloned in 2001 by the Champion Tree Project, run by a Michigan man who travels the country attempting to “preserve, protect, propagate and plant” America’s most impressive trees. Branches containing buds were given to Schichtel’s Nursery in Milton-Freewater, who donated a clone back to the Phi house following the collapse of the original. The clone was planted in March of last year and is thriving, according to Matlock.

Walla Walla, said David Milarch of the Champion Tree Project in a 2001 interview with the Union-Bulletin, has a remarkable number of champion trees for its size. “The state of Ohio has six national champions in the whole state. The state of Wisconsin has 12 in the whole state, the state of Minnesota has four, there’s four or five states that have none, and yet in Walla Walla there’re 50 state champions in one little city.”

And there may be more soon. “We’re going to plant more trees for the Phis and Sigs,” Brown said. “It’s an ongoing process. We have a good relationship with the fraternities.”

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