Arborist Henry Frischknecht points out some of the work
that has been done to save the Arsenal Oak on Augusta State
University's campus. The tree contracted a usually fatal
disease last year but has survived. JONATHAN ERNST/STAFF
Mending ASU's symbol
Experimental treatment fixing Arsenal
Henry Frischknecht points to three black, golf
ball-size circles on Augusta State University's Arsenal Oak.
The circles, he says, are remnants of a killer disease. But on
this inspection, Mr. Frischknecht smiles with optimism because the
cancerlike fungus is diminishing and many more black spots are at
his feet - spots of shade cast by the tree's newly growing,
"This is another infection that just came up," said Mr.
Fischknecht, the owner of Empire Tree and Turf in Augusta, referring
to the circles he saw during an inspection Tuesday of the oak, which
is considered the oldest in Augusta. "But it (the infection) is
nothing like it was. It's really looking a lot better than I had
thought it would."
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the old Augusta Arsenal, the tree is the symbol for Augusta State
University. It is listed as about 400 years old on a school marker
but is probably closer to 250 years old, Mr. Frischknecht said.
The oak was infected last year with hypoxylon canker, a tree
disease that is almost always fatal. It had many black spots of
infection, and school officials wondered whether the tree would make
it through the winter.
But because of an experimental treatment by Mr. Frischknecht,
recent heavy rains and constant watering, the tree is now generating
new life, Mr. Frischknecht said.
really good sign," he said. "I've got it (the disease) in recession
Max Brown, Augusta State's grounds supervisor, also is expressing
A new black spot, indicating an infected area, has
appeared next to a section of the Arsenal Oak that was removed
last year to help control a wide swath of infection that
threatened the tree. Mr. Frischknecht found three black spots
Tuesday in an inspection. JONATHAN
"Hopefully, in a couple of weeks, we should have pretty
good leaf out on the tree," he said. "You would expect the tree to
be in a lot worse shape had Henry not applied his treatments."
Mr. Frischknecht said the tree is now looking its best since the
beginning of the past winter. He said he plans to inject more of his
experimental treatment into the tree, adding that more than 50
percent of the tree's branches would now be dead had it not been
New foliage also is good news for a second effort to preserve the
"They are going to clone it," Mr. Brown said. "They're looking at
some time after a good leaf out, maybe sometime in May. I know they
need some good tissue."
The original Arsenal Oak must still battle the upcoming heat from
the spring and summer.
"I'm encouraged at this point, but that doesn't mean anything
until we get into some warm weather," said Mr. Brown, noting that if
drought conditions return, the tree could again become susceptible
to the killer disease.
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