New European Larch replaces iconic Pentacrest tree lost to strong winds

A new tree was planted Thursday in the place where the old European Larch once stood.


Katie Goodale

New trees are seen on the Pentacrest on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019. The tree was planted to replace the European Larch tree that fell due to strong winds in September.

Rylee Wilson, News Reporter

For years, the European Larch on the University of Iowa Pentacrest provided shade and a place for children to play on its unique low-hanging branches.

When winds from a thunderstorm claimed the beloved tree in September, many were upset by the loss. Although it can never be replaced, a new European Larch is taking the place of where the tree once stood.

Facilities management staff and fans of the tree gathered on the Pentacrest Thursday morning to celebrate the planting of the new tree.

Andy Dahl, arborist for the UI, began searching for a new European Larch after the original was removed, and finally found two at a nursery in the Chicago area.

Dahl said the new tree, standing around 20-feet tall and estimated to be around 15 years old, was chosen for the way its low-hanging branches are similar to the look of its predecessor.

“When [the nursery] sent the photo of it, it just reminded me so much of the old one. It has a low limb just like the other one,” he said. “Maybe someday people will enjoy this one like the old one. We’re happy to get it this year — the weather isn’t really cooperating a lot, but we can plant trees as long as it’s not frozen.”

Dahl said he estimates the previous tree was around 60 to 65 years old based on the earliest photographs he could find. He said in 20 to 25 years, the new tree should be fairly large.

Erin Irish, an associate professor of biology at the UI, attended the planting of the new tree.

Katie Goodale
New trees are seen on the Pentacrest on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019. The tree was planted to replace the European Larch tree that fell due to strong winds in September.

Irish has worked at the UI since 1990 and was involved in protecting the old tree, calling facilities management when she was concerned a maple tree was planted too close to the European Larch and advocating for signs to be put up to keep people off the branches.

“People were always enjoying that tree – and who could blame them? I looked at it and thought ‘Oh, I would really like to climb that tree,’” she said.

Irish said she was touched by how many people were affected by the loss of the tree.

RELATED: ‘It had a real grace to it’: UI says goodbye to quirky but loved Pentacrest tree

“It had such a great form and had this wonderful place on campus. It was amazing how upset so many people were when it died,” she said. “I am just thrilled beyond words that such a fine replacement has been found and has already been installed, and I think it’ll be well cared for.”

Shawn Fitzpatrick, ground supervisor for facilities management, said the UI plants around 300 trees in a year and loses 200 trees annually, mainly due to emerald ash borer disease.

Fitzpatrick said facilities staff were aware the iconic Pentacrest tree could be vulnerable to damage.

“It had a bad base, which we were aware of, and we couldn’t really do anything about it,” he said.

Fitzpatrick said normally he tries to avoid planting trees too late into the winter, but since the ground isn’t frozen, there’s no concern for the well-being of the tree.

As previously reported by The Daily Iowan, UI President Bruce Harreld announced the planting of the new tree at a University of Iowa Student Government meeting Tuesday night.

RELATED: Pentacrest to receive new tree on Thursday

Harreld said the replacement tree is stronger than the old European Larch but has the same nostalgic qualities.

“It has a limb that is closer to the ground, like the old tree,” Harreld said at the meeting. “It will still be photogenic, and you can climb on it.”