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No, The HUB Lawn Isn’t Actually Dead

Students and families who came up to Penn State last week were probably shocked to see the university’s once-lush campus looking unusually barren.

Among the most affected areas is the HUB Lawn, a location typically seen sprawling with lounging students on a warm day. Although the HUB Lawn’s brown, crunchy state isn’t exactly pretty, there’s not too much to worry about, according to one of Penn State’s lead landscapers.

“Currently, the turfgrass on the HUB Lawn is dormant, not dead,” Matthew Wolf, a landscape operations supervisor at Penn State’s Office of Physical Plant, explained. “Most of the grass will come back once we get some precipitation and cooler weather.”

Dormancy is a common defense mechanism for cool-season grasses. During lengthy periods of heat or dryness, grasses will go dormant to retain water, funnel resources to the roots, and remain in an active growth phase. Think of it almost like hibernation for your lawn.

Wolf added University Park’s “extremely” hot and dry summer contributed to the grass’s dormancy. July 2020 tied with July 2016 as the hottest month on record, according to a report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration earlier this month.

More than half of Pennsylvania is currently experiencing abnormal dryness. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, nearly 28% of the Keystone State is observing a moderate drought, which can cause damage to crops and pastures, lead to water shortages, and prompt water-use restrictions if the situation grows dire. State College sits smack-dab in the middle of the state’s current drought.

Via the U.S. Drought Monitor

Despite the lack of rain, Penn State doesn’t currently plan on increasing its watering or implementing sprinklers to address the barren lawns.

“We currently do not irrigate our turfgrass on campus because we want to be as environmentally friendly and sustainable as we can and not use potable water for irrigation turf,” Wolf said.

OPP plans to “overseed” the grass, a process in which grass seed is spread over an existing lawn, once temperatures dip in the coming weeks. Even though steps will be taken to address the dormant grass, Wolf cautioned that not every blade will become green again.

Although the dormant grass isn’t too pretty, the unusual sight didn’t stop students from having some socially distanced fun this weekend before classes started. Many were spotted playing Spikeball with friends, slinging the pigskin, or simply vibing from a respectable distance.

Mira DiBattiste | Onward State
Mira DiBattiste | Onward State

Remember, folks: Just like Miracle Max said in “The Princess Bride,” the grass is only mostly dead. The only way we’ll know for sure is to wait and see.

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About the Author

Matt DiSanto

Matt proudly served as Onward State’s managing editor for two years until graduating from Penn State with distinction in May 2022. Now, he’s off in the real world doing real things. Send him an email ([email protected]) or follow him on Twitter (@mattdisanto_) to stay in touch.

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