Today, January 20, 2012 is Florida Arbor Day, a day for revering trees and a great day for planting trees in our state. Unfortunately, Floridians are not in a particularly celebratory mood this week.
One of the world’s oldest trees (said to be the 5th oldest), a resident of Florida for purportedly 3500 years (not a misprint, that’s three thousand, five-hundred, folks) met its demise this week. “The Senator”, as it was known, is no longer.
This majestic Baldcypress (Taxodium distichum), was discovered burning in the early morning hours on Monday, and despite valiant efforts by our firefighters, collapsed.
I’m particularly saddened because in my usual procrastinating way, I never visited “The Senator”, named after Florida Senator M.O. Overstreet, who donated the land for its home in 1927. That property came to be known as Big Tree Park (PDF brochure can be downloaded on that site).
When I first moved to Florida, I lived rather close and often passed by the park on shopping excursions and trips to visit with friends. Always with full intention of checking it out…soon. New York friends, who also moved here at the same time as I, had taken the time and the husband in particular showed such enthusiasm in describing the 118-Foot tree (1993) and often reminded me of what I was missing. Now, I don’t have the chance and I have profound regret.
There has been a lot of debate over the years surrounding this tree. Some say it is a Pond Cypress (Taxodium ascendens), some say it is the largest tree of its kind, others disagree. Suffice to say that it was a huge tree. Now there is debate about whether there was arson involved. I certainly hope not for that would be just too much to comprehend.
I prefer to think that Mother Nature gives and Mother Nature takes away. The Senator once stood at 165 feet but lost it’s top to hurricane in 1925. Fire is a way of renewal in nature. Planting a tree is another way of helping nature renew. Choose your trees wisely and plant at appropriate times for your state. Use your own state’s Arbor Day as a guide.
And my advice is to make the time now to explore the wildlife gardens beyond your own backyards. You may not get a second chance. May The Senator rest in peace.
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