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Saving the Southern Magnolia on the Eastside Trail

The majestic magnolia that towers over the Eastside Trail just north of Ponce de Leon Ave has withstood the test of time and seen many changes in its surroundings over the years. Once a feature of the original Ponce de Leon Park (and, later, Spiller Field) where the Atlanta Crackers played minor league baseball, the tree occasionally caught balls that were hit into the outfield, earning it the nickname “Spiller Magnolia.”

The Southern Magnolia overlooking the Eastside Trail. Photo from vahi.org.

The Southern Magnolia overlooking the Eastside Trail. Photo from vahi.org.

As time progressed, there were many changes to the site. The stadium was demolished in 1965, and the shopping center was developed in its place. The old Sears building became City Hall East and now Ponce City Market, and the Southern Railway tracks were lifted several years ago to make way for the Eastside Trail. Through it all, the tree persevered, and now stands to live even longer as a native resident of the Atlanta BeltLine.

"Spiller Field" and the twin magnolias. Photo from digitalballparks.com.

Spiller Field with the twin magnolias in the background. Photo from digitalballparks.com.

Over the years and many changes in development, erosion of the soil between the tree and the Midtown Place shopping center threatened the stability of the massive tree, and Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. (ABI) was tasked with rescuing the historic landmark. Trees Atlanta, ArborMedics, and ABI partnered with Surfaces Group to extend the retaining wall behind Midtown Place and fill in the gap caused by the erosion between the tree and the wall with soil. Coro Realty, the owner of the shopping center, contributed funds to help preserve the tree.

A retaining wall was built behind the magnolia to provide stability and keep soil from eroding further.

A retaining wall was built behind the magnolia to provide stability and keep soil from eroding further.

Not only will the magnolia live to see another day, but in an effort to preserve the particular species, 180 cuttings were taken from the two trees last year by Trees Atlanta and are now being nurtured by Bold Springs Nursery, to be eventually replanted along the Atlanta BeltLine when they are full-grown. More information on that project can be found on the Trees Atlanta website.

Want to see hear more about the Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum? Join us for a walking tour guided by a knowledgeable Trees Atlanta docent on Fridays and Saturdays.

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