The Senator (tree)

The Senator was the biggest and oldest bald cypress[1] tree in the world, located in Big Tree Park, Longwood, Florida. At the time of its demise in 2012, it was 125 feet (38 m) tall, with a trunk diameter of 17.5 feet (5.3 m). The destruction of the tree was the unintentional result of a fire set at its base.[2]

The Senator
Perhaps the last photo of the pond cypress known as The Senator (2012).jpg
The Senator in 2012
SpeciesBald cypress (Taxodium distichum)
Coordinates28°43′11.2″N 81°19′52.65″W / 28.719778°N 81.3312917°W / 28.719778; -81.3312917Coordinates: 28°43′11.2″N 81°19′52.65″W / 28.719778°N 81.3312917°W / 28.719778; -81.3312917
Date felledJanuary 16, 2012
Adult male standing about fifteen feet in front of a 125-foot tree
The Senator in 2011

BackgroundEdit

As of 1993, the Senator was estimated to be 3,500 years old, making it the 5th oldest tree in the world.[3] The tree's volume had previously been estimated at 4,300 cubic feet (120 m3), but a 2006 survey by Will Blozan of the Native Tree Society has measured the volume at well over 5,100 cubic feet (140 m3), making The Senator not only the largest Bald Cypress in the United States, but also the largest tree of any species east of the Mississippi River.[4]

HistoryEdit

 
Looking up from the base of The Senator, 1967

The Seminoles and other Native American groups who lived throughout Central Florida used this tree as a landmark. In the late 19th century, the tree attracted visitors even though much of the surrounding land was swamp; reaching the tree was done by leaping from log to log. A walkway was later constructed by the Works Progress Administration. In 1925, a hurricane destroyed the top of the tree, reducing its height from 165 feet (50 m) to 118 feet (36 m).

The Senator was named for Florida State Senator Moses Overstreet, who donated the tree and surrounding land to Seminole County for a park in 1927. In 1929, former US President Calvin Coolidge reportedly visited The Senator and dedicated the site with a commemorative bronze plaque. A photo that was published of Coolidge and his wife near the tree was reported by the Orlando Sentinel to have been doctored.[5] The plaque and portions of an iron fence were stolen by vandals in 1945 and never recovered.[3]

Fire and collapseEdit

On January 16, 2012, a fire was reported at the top of the Senator tree, which burned from the inside out, "like a chimney."[6] Firefighters arrived to try to extinguish the blaze, but the tree collapsed. The charred remains of the tree now stand only 20 to 25 feet (6.1 to 7.6 m) tall.[6]

On February 28, 2012, the Florida Division of Forestry said they arrested a 26-year-old woman on suspicion of starting the Senator fire. The suspect stated that she regularly went to the tree site when the park was closed. On the night of January 16, 2012, she lit a fire with debris so that she could see the crystal meth that she was trying to smoke but the fire got out of control.[2] Officials said that they found images of the fire being started on the woman's laptop and on her cellphone.[7] Following a plea agreement resulting in a suspended sentence, she was ordered to jail for 30 months for violation of probation in 2016.[8]

Post-fireEdit

Some people[who?] believe that the tree is still alive today. They[who?] have spotted saplings at the base of the big tree. Officials also said that the tree was cloned at one point, and they are searching to bring the clones back.[2][failed verification] In October 2013, Seminole County officials allowed a small, select group of artists and woodworkers to create works of art for the county from the charred remains of the Senator.[9] Artisans have created a variety of items, including vases, pens, ornate flutes, and sculptures. Some of the items have been made available for sale at art shows, and officials are working toward making both a permanent and traveling exhibit with some of the artifacts.

On March 2, 2014, Big Tree Park was re-opened to the public after being closed for almost a year after the fire that destroyed The Senator. A memorial was constructed which includes signage along the newly renovated boardwalk, a playground piece that mimics a bald cypress tree stump and a clone of The Senator that was planted near the playground. The name for the clone is "The Phoenix".[10]

A clone of the Senator was located, and currently is growing at the entrance to Big Tree Park. The clone was provided by Marvin Buchanan. Buchanan had secured some branches after the Senator suffered wind damage and cloned it on his tree farm.[11]

Lady Liberty TreeEdit

 
Lady Liberty in 2007.

Located 40 feet (12 m) from where The Senator stood is another old cypress in the same Big Tree Park named Lady Liberty that was named companion tree to The Senator. It is 89 feet (27 m) high 10 feet (3.0 m) in diameter, is estimated to be 2,000 years old and is another one of the oldest trees in the world.[3]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Seminole County Big Tree Park" (PDF). Retrieved November 22, 2015.
  2. ^ a b c Campbell, Janie (2012-03-04). "The Senator: Sara Barnes Charged With Setting Fire That Destroyed 3,500-Year-Old Florida Cypress Tree". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2012-09-01.
  3. ^ a b c "The Senator - Florida's Big Tree". Floridata. Archived from the original on 2012-02-11. Retrieved 2012-01-16.
  4. ^ "The Senator Cypress is re-elected to top position in Eastern Forests". Eastern Native Tree Society. 2006-05-08. Retrieved 2012-01-16.
  5. ^ "The Senator cypress tree at Big Tree Park". Orlando Sentinel. Archived from the original on 2014-10-30.
  6. ^ a b Pavuk, Amy (2012-01-16). "Investigator: Fire that destroyed 'The Senator' was not arson". Orlando Sentinel. Tribune Company. Archived from the original on 2012-01-31. Retrieved 2012-01-16.
  7. ^ "Woman arrested in 'The Senator' tree fire". ClickOrlando.com. 2015-11-07. Retrieved 2021-11-29.
  8. ^ Stutzman, Rene (March 31, 2016). "Woman who burned down giant tree going to prison". Orlando Sentinel. Archived from the original on 2021-11-22.
  9. ^ "Seminole County's 'The Senator' tree lives on in art". SeminoleVoice.com. 2013-10-17. Archived from the original on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2014-06-05.
  10. ^ "Big Tree Park". SeminoleCountyFL.gov. Archived from the original on 2014-07-13. Retrieved 2014-06-05.
  11. ^ Babcock, Isaak (2013-03-06). "Forgotten experiment resurrects The Senator". Maitland Observer.

External linksEdit