Tornado-ravaged tree makes great holiday display

An artistic display that now hangs inside the house of Ohio State University President Gordon Gee, utilizes paper birch branches rescued from the rubble of the September 16 tornado that heavily damaged the Wooster campus of the university’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC) and its Secrest Arboretum.

The paper birch (Betula papyrifera) these branches came from is a native tree that has withstood the test of time in Secrest Arboretum since 1917. The tornado obliterated some 1,500 trees covering one-fourth of the arboretum, returning portions of it to the bareness its founder, Edmund Secrest, found when he came to Ohio in 1905. Secrest’s answer to Ohio’s deforestation and soil erosion problems at the time was to “once again, plant trees.” Today, Secrest Arboretum is committed to doing the same for future generations.

Elsewhere on the OARDC campus, the tornado leveled several buildings; damaged roofs, windows and offices on many others; and destroyed or partially damaged most of the Center’s 26 greenhouses, along with critical research contained inside them. Infrastructure and equipment losses are estimated in the tens of millions of dollars.

As the paper birch arrangement hovers from above during the holidays at President Gee’s residence, perhaps revelers will be reminded of Robert Frost’s “Birches”:

“… I’d like to go by climbing a birch tree,

And climb black branches up a snow-white trunk

Toward heaven, till the tree could bear no more,

But dipped its top and set me down again.

That would be good both going and coming back.

One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.”

The branches used in the holiday display for President Gee's residence came from this paper birch tree, from Secrest Arboretum in Wooster.

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