USC Horseshoe – Columbia, SC

2006 Heritage Tree Award Winner


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USC Horseshoe

Photo credit: University of South Carolina

When the University was established in December, 1801, it was simply a few buildings in a mud field that was once used to raise chickens and pigs for early faculty members.  It was not until 1840 when a plan titled “Plan of College-Campus and Buildings” was put into action and the Horseshoe Quadrangle was fully developed. This plan not only included the basis for the structure of the Horseshoe, it placed emphasis on the placement of parallel rows of trees through the center of the Horseshoe. Thus began the practice of preserving the value and significance of trees on the campus. Today, almost one hundred majestic trees grace the inner lawn of the Horseshoe, surrounded by the oldest buildings of the campus.

The Horseshoe was designed to be and has remained a focal point for student activity on the campus. Once a makeshift hospital during the Civil War, many 100 foot oaks tower over the lush lawn of the Horseshoe below, and provide a cool, peaceful retreat to staff and students alike. Many graduation ceremonies, concerts, and sporting events have taken place on the Horseshoe’s expanse of lawn.

Mostly comprised of elms during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, today’s Horseshoe trees have evolved into a healthy, well maintained collection of American Elm, White Oak, Red Oak, and Live Oak. Many of the original elms were lost between 1930 and 1950, when Dutch Elm Disease rapidly spread through the state. Only the oldest and most healthy trees survived, some of which are still present on the Horseshoe today. In the 1950’s, new trees were planted in response to the mortality brought on by Dutch Elm Disease.

After being placed on the National Register of Historic Places in the 1970’s, the U.S.C. Horseshoe has been considered one of the most beautiful quadrangles in the country and is compared to the likes of Harvard Yard and the Great Lawn at the University of Virginia. Our largest tree on the Horseshoe is a 55” diameter Willow Oak that is approximately 125 years old; the smallest is a 3” diameter Overcup Oak, a recent planting.