USC’s Horseshoe loses a big, old tree

The University of South Carolina is having to remove one of the oldest trees on the Horseshoe, an estimated 130-year-old live oak, for pedestrian safety.

The tree was struck by lightning about five years ago but was not killed. However, “gravity eventually wins,” said Tom Knowles, an assistant director for facilities. On June 10, a large branch fell from the tree, alerting officials that the giant tree was dangerous for pedestrians, since it stands near the visitors’ center, the Osborne administration building and McKissick Museum, where several sidewalks converge.

After an “agonizing decision,” Knowles watched professionals on Thursday begin the process of removing his favorite tree at USC.

So what does taking down a big tree involve?

The four steps:

Borrow a bucket truck and command a chain saw

The first step is to remove all the small limbs with greenery. The branches are sawed off until the larger branches and trunk are all that remain.

Rig up a crane to larger branches

Removing the larger branches involves attaching a rig from a crane to secure one branch at a time. As each branch is cut at the base, the crane catches it so it does not fall dangerously to the ground.

Go after the trunk

The crane’s rig is then attached to the giant trunk, which weighs about a ton or two. The trunk is cut as close to the ground as possible so a minimal stump remains.

Grind the stump

Workers then use a stump grinder to get rid of the remaining trunk and roots.

Planting a new tree: The best time to plant a new tree is in the winter, so a replacement tree of the same species will be planted during the colder months.

The afterlife: The logs will be sent to a sawmill and treated so they don’t dry out quickly and crack. Then the wood will be stored until it’s returned to USC in the form of furniture, picture frames or plaques.