EVEN trees have their “hair” done.

Called “tree pruning,” the lower branches of the trees in Benavides Park have been cut to achieve their natural form and to improve growth.

Fr. Roberto Pinto, O.P., head of the Facilities and Management Office, explained that every species of trees spread their branches toward a distinct direction, giving them their overall shape.

For instance, acacias have an umbrella-shaped top; mahoganies have branches sticking out of the trunk diagonally; narras have an elongated crown shape; and flame trees have branches slightly bowing at the end.

“When you prune trees, you have to cut them in such a way that they can achieve their forms when they grow again. You don’t just cut and cut. You have to follow the trees’ natural growth,” Pinto told the Varsitarian.

So if the once shady landscape looked all of the sudden bare and bland, this was because the trees have to be pruned. This should be done every five years, said Pinto, a former UST treasurer.

Forgotten

During his first tenure in UST in the 1990s, Pinto said he made sure the trees on campus were pruned. But when he left the University in 1997, nobody bothered to continue the practice.

As a result, UST failed to reap pruning’s more profound benefits.

For instance, pruning helps prevent trees from being uprooted during storms. After Typhoon Milenyo struck in 2006, “everybody saw the effect,” Pinto said. Some of the biggest trees in the campus were toppled.

Pinto said pruning gives trees the ability to withstand surging winds because less branches means less obstruction. Wind traffic will be smoother with less branches blocking the way, he said.

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Since there are fewer branches, sunlight can reach the ground, promoting grass growth, he added.

“If you see the grass (in the Benavides Park) all dried up, it is because the tree is already blocking the sunlight, inhibiting grass growth,” Pinto explained.

A variation of pruning called “crown lifting” makes trees look taller since the lower branches are trimmed. The framework of the branches and twigs, called the crown, appears “lifted” with the lower branches removed. As a result, there’s also less obstruction for people walking at the Benavides Park.

Despite the project’s good intentions, Pinto said it still raised some eyebrows in UST.

“Of course there were comments; you cannot take that away,” Pinto said. “But if you explain to them the rationale of the tree pruning and that it has to be done, eventually, they understand.”

In the meantime, Pinto said all bushes and shrubs that will be taken away to clear the park will likely be transferred near the Father’s Residence once the Rector gives his permission.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The tree-pruning project of the Facilities Management Office at the Benavides Plaza is not part of the planned expansion of the Plaza Mayor as what was previously stated in the caption of a photo that appeared in the Aug. 31, 2008 issue of the Varsitarian. We apologize for the error.

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