Evergreen trees in the Ambler Arboretum
A recent view of the center of Temple University Ambler.
Photo and story provided by Kathy Salisbury

Some of the trees in the Ambler Arboretum lost their tops in the September 1, 2021 tornado.

According to Ambler Arboretum Director Kathy Salisbury, after the storm, "it looked like little Christmas trees had been scattered around the Arboretum."

"They were actually many of the tops of our large conifers," she said. "Besides looking funny for a while, many people might wonder what we expect from our topless trees." 

The top, called a terminal leader, gives the conifers "the pyramidal shape we have come to expect from our needled friends," Salisbury said. 

"When this top was broken off in a storm, the tree will usually respond by growing a few new leaders in its place," she said. "This usually results in a loss of the symmetry and pyramidal shape the tree once had. It is also possible that rather than growing a new leader, one or more of the existing remaining branches will attempt to take over the role of dominant leader." 

Whatever the case, Salisbury said, one of the multiple new leaders should be selected to take over and the rest pruned away.

"This enables the remaining leader to take over dominance and you may be able to achieve that familiar symmetry again," she said. "We hope that when visitors come to the Ambler Arboretum, they'll keep an eye on the tops of some of our conifers and see if they can tell how the tree is responding."