Chuck Leavell, the Rolling Stones band’s longtime keyboardist and a conservationist, helped plant a white oak tree Thursday at Wake Forest University as part of his two-day visit to the school.
“Here we go; let’s throw some dirt,” Leavell said as he used a shovel to plant the tree in a field on the eastside of Farrell Hall near the intersection of Carroll Weathers Drive and Wingate Road.
Leavell was joined by Dedee Johnston, the chief sustainability officer at WFU, Hof Milam, the university’s executive vice president, and Andy Tennille, the curator of the “More Barn” concert series.
Leavell’s visit to WFU is sponsored by the university’s Office of Sustainability, its Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability and the “More Barn” concert series in the Reynolda Village, WFU said in a statement. Later on Thursday, Leavell was scheduled to appear with Miles Silman, a biology professor and the director of the CEES, at WFU’s Brendle Recital Hall.
Leavell will perform at 8 p.m Friday at a solo concert at The Barn at Reynolda Village. Doors will open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door.
He and his wife, Rose Lane Leavell, live on their 3,000-acre tree farm, Charlane Plantation, near Macon, Ga.
Leavell has written several books and won major awards. He and his wife were named National Outstanding Tree Farmers of the Year in 1999. They started their work on Charlane Plantation in Dry Branch, Georgia, in 1981.
“My wife had inherited this land from her grandmother, and I had shifted my interest to environmental concerns, specifically forestry,” Leavell told Relish on Nov. 2. Relish is an entertainment publication of the Winston-Salem Journal.
His books about the environment are “Forever Green: The History and Hope of the American Forest,” “Growing a Better America: Smart, Strong, Sustainable” and “The Tree Farmer,” written for children. He also co-founded an environmental news website, Mother Nature Network, www.mnn.com.
Leavell, 64, said the tree he helped plant at WFU will eventually grow to 100 feet or taller.
“Of course, it will take a long time, and it will not happen overnight,” Leavell said. “That’s one of the things that forestry teaches you is patience and the long picture.”
Two WFU employees added mulch and water to the tree after it was planted. They will likely give it additional water as no rain is in the forecast for Winston-Salem through Nov. 17, according to the National Weather Service.
White oaks are great acorn-bearing trees, he said.
“It’s wonderful for wildlife,” Leavell said. “Squirrels will certainly love this tree.”
Deer, wild turkeys, quail and other animals also eat the acorns from white oak trees, he said.
Leavell toured with the Rolling Stones for more than 25 years and is one of the most respected keyboardists in the world of rock and roll, WFU said. His piano and keyboard work has also been heard on the works of Eric Clapton, John Mayer, The Black Crowes, George Harrison and The Allman Brothers Band.
Before the tree-planting ceremony, Johnston told Leavell that the National Arbor Day Foundation has designated WFU as a Tree Campus USA School. The foundation recognized the university for its management of trees.
Johnston said that thousands of trees on the WFU campus live within an urban environment and near the university’s parking lots, which generate heat.
“We have a real commitment to native species (of trees) on campus,” she said. “Some of the native species are not really acclimated to a hot parking lot environment. Some of the trees endure a lot of heat or endure a lot of foot traffic.”