“But a dead tree cannot be saved, and dead it is...”
October 17, 2016 7:02 AM   Subscribe

A 600-Year-Old Oak Tree Finally Succumbs [The New York Times] “The locals say that George Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette — the Frenchman who bankrolled the American patriots with cold, hard cash — picnicked in the shade it provided. Rank-and-file soldiers are said to have rested under it, gathering strength before going on to beat the redcoats. It is a huge oak tree, now estimated to be 600 years old. Arborists such as Rob Gillies consider it one of the oldest in North America. It is a local landmark, right there in the cemetery of the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church. On Thursday, Mr. Gillies sliced into it with a chain saw.”
posted by Fizz (28 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by Fizz at 7:02 AM on October 17, 2016


Huh. I probably walked past this tree a hundred times when I was younger, and had no idea it was that old.

It's worth noting that the church/tree are located on Oak Street, which suddenly makes sense.
posted by schmod at 7:11 AM on October 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


The photo at the top of the story is brilliant.
posted by hawthorne at 7:22 AM on October 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


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posted by tobascodagama at 7:28 AM on October 17, 2016


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posted by Melismata at 7:37 AM on October 17, 2016


The explanation behind what happened to it is as fascinating as it is sad:
“The tree was so old, it wasn’t able to withstand the intensity of the heat we had,” Mr. Klippel said. “We had these stretches of heat, and then a deluge.”

Mr. Gillies said the tree responded to the initial “heat stress” by closing off the pores in the rings deep inside, behind the bark. “These shut down, so it doesn’t transpire,” he said. “Then it was inundated” by almost 12 hours of heavy rain. “The roots were soaking because it couldn’t process the water,” he said.
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posted by fraula at 7:48 AM on October 17, 2016 [10 favorites]


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posted by ZeusHumms at 8:15 AM on October 17, 2016


Thinking about this 600 year old tree and I found this article. I'm not sure if it makes me feel better or worse.
Trees have feelings. They can feel pain, but can also have emotions, such as fear. Trees like to stand close together and cuddle. There is in fact friendship among trees. [...] Trees are so much more than rows of wood waiting to be turned into furniture, buildings or firewood. They are more than organisms producing oxygen or cleaning the air for us. They are individual beings that have feelings, know friendship have a common language and look after each other.
These are just a few of the wonderful observations made by tree whisperer, Peter Wohlleben, the German forester extraordinaire and best-selling author of "The Hidden Life of Trees."
posted by Fizz at 8:20 AM on October 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


Goodbye, tree friend. :(
posted by Hermione Granger at 8:23 AM on October 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


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posted by seyirci at 8:51 AM on October 17, 2016


Fizz, did you see the recent FPP about ghost redwoods? The article in it says something similar about how trees form communities and help each other. It's fascinating too.
posted by apricot at 8:54 AM on October 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


I have a friend who bought a historic home. In his fronthe yard is a historic tree that the road makes a weird jut around because the tree is on the historic registry. In effect, the tree prevents the city/state from widening his street into a multi lane highway in front of his house. Which is good, because New Jersey doesn't need more double lane highways through rural/suburban land.

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posted by Nanukthedog at 9:23 AM on October 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


So, the tree couldn't withstand the changes in climate? That's depressing.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:36 AM on October 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


Which is good, because New Jersey doesn't need more double lane highways through rural/suburban land.
Good news! New Jersey is too broke to build anything, and is too densely populated to build major new roads anyway.

New Jersey's suburban sprawl is bad, but unlike most places in the country, it's not getting any worse. While there are few actual urban-growth boundaries, the effect is similar.

The question for New Jersey is now to figure out how it can grow, knowing these constraints. It's hard for New Jersey to be competitive when nobody's accounting for the externalities of endless-sprawl elsewhere in the country. Towns like Basking Ridge (which is a lovely little village, BTW) have responded by refusing to grow – in the short-term this made the town wealthier and less-diverse, at the expense of a highly-uncertain long-term future. The nearby corporations aren't going to stick around if there's no place for their workers to live. The towns that did the right thing and embraced TOD got a boot to the face.
posted by schmod at 10:21 AM on October 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


(More context: Chris Christie lives about 15 minutes away from this tree, and I grew up in the area.)
posted by schmod at 10:21 AM on October 17, 2016


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posted by gracenote at 11:11 AM on October 17, 2016


There is a "dead tree in a cemetery" joke here somewhere, but I'm too bummed at the passing of the tree to find it.
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posted by BigHeartedGuy at 12:12 PM on October 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


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posted by allthinky at 12:37 PM on October 17, 2016


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posted by Ber at 1:09 PM on October 17, 2016


Thank you for posting this. I just lost a 168 year old elm in my front yard during Hurricane Matthew. Somehow, this made me feel better. Misery loves company I guess.
posted by rudd135 at 3:41 PM on October 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


This is sad. Even if a branch did snap off it would only be falling on somebody already dead, or on some goths, who want to be dead anyway.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:46 PM on October 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


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posted by pjern at 4:15 PM on October 17, 2016


Here is a slightly younger oak tree in Peoria, estimated to have taken root around 1492. It's kept healthy by a fence keeping people off the roots and by lightning rods to protect it from lightning strikes, but the increasing heat is definitely taking a toll. Its lifespan is not a whole lot longer than it already is even under the best conditions, but it's hard to watch its decline.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:21 PM on October 17, 2016


The question for New Jersey is now to figure out how it can grow, knowing these constraints.

This presupposes that New Jersey (or any other state, or country for that matter) must grow. Something to think about.
posted by IndigoJones at 7:12 PM on October 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


Sad. I'll have to make sure to visit it before it's completely gone. It's an interesting tree - it's not tall so much as wide. The big branches go straight out for longer than seems normal, then up. As I recall, there are metal braces helping prop up the branches.

Basking Ridge's downtown is relatively small, and this church is very much an anchor. The tree is right there in the churchyard on the main drag, too - quite visible.

For the tree community conversation, there was a recent Radio Lab talking about exactly this.

On NJ suburban sprawl, one "solution" in my area has been to build large numbers of apartments within a reasonable walk from a train station. Of course, part of the success will depend on the Raritan Valley Line of New Jersey Transit becoming a one seat ride. But in Somerville, near me, there's one half finished/half unstarted complex (1), one close to completion (2), and one that's just a frame right now(3). All three are walking distance from each other.

If you know the area:
(1) the downtown one with the retail on the bottom - Starbucks, Wolfgang's, etc. There was supposed to be another side to it, over towards Candyland Crafts.
(2) the one on Veteran's Memorial that looks like shipping containers.
(3) the one across from Somerset Hotel and the courthouse green
posted by booksherpa at 10:14 PM on October 17, 2016


300 years growing, 300 years thriving and 300 years dying.

Sorry to have failed you, taken too soon.
posted by koolkat at 1:14 AM on October 18, 2016


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posted by tilde at 8:18 AM on October 18, 2016


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posted by spinifex23 at 10:14 AM on October 18, 2016


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