The Senator (tree)

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Adult male standing about fifteen feet in front of a 125 foot tree
The Senator in 2011
The Senator in 2006

The Senator was the biggest and oldest pond cypress tree in the world, located in Big Tree Park, Longwood, Florida. At the time of its demise, it was 125 feet (38 m) tall, with a trunk diameter of 17.5 feet (5.3 m). The tree was destroyed by a fire started by the criminal arson of a meth addict on January 16, 2012.[1]

History[edit]

The base of the Senator, 1967
Looking up from the base of the Senator, 1967

The Seminole Indians and other Native American Indians 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 original height of 165 feet (50 m) to a height of 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 president Calvin Coolidge visited The Senator and dedicated the site with a commemorative bronze plaque. The plaque and portions of an iron fence were stolen by vandals in 1945 and never recovered.[2]

Fire and collapse[edit]

On January 16, 2012, a fire was reported at the top of the Senator tree, which burned from the inside out, "like a chimney."[3] 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.[3]

Arrest[edit]

On Tuesday, February 28, 2012, The Division of Forestry said they arrested 26 year old Sara Barnes in relation to the fire of The Senator. Barnes said she regularly went to the tree site to do drugs and lit a fire that night so that she could see, but that it got out of control. Officials said that they found images of the fire being started on Barnes' laptop and on her cellphone. When an arrest warrant was served at her home she was also charged with possession of methamphetamine.[4]

Post-incident[edit]

Some people believe that the tree is still alive. They 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.[4] 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.[5] 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 towards making both a permanent and travelling exhibit with some of the artifacts.

Clone[edit]

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".[6]

Statistics[edit]

As of 1993, the Senator was estimated to be 3,500 years old, making it the 5th oldest tree in the world.[2] 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 Pond Cypress in the United States, but also the largest tree of any species east of the Mississippi River.[7]

Lady Liberty Tree[edit]

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, and is estimated to be 2000 years old; another one of the oldest trees in the world.[2]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Fire destroys 3,500-year-old cypress tree 'The Senator' in Florida". Daily Mail Online. Retrieved 2012-01-17. 
  2. ^ a b c "The Senator - Florida's Big Tree". Floridata. Retrieved 2012-01-16. 
  3. ^ a b Pavuk, Amy (2012-01-16). "Investigator: Fire that destroyed 'The Senator' was not arson". Orlando Sentinel. Tribune Company. Retrieved 2012-01-16. 
  4. ^ a b "The Senator: Sara Barnes Charged With Setting Fire That Destroyed 3,500-Year-Old Florida Cypress Tree". 2012-03-04. Retrieved 2012-09-01. 
  5. ^ http://www.seminolevoice.com/news/2013/oct/17/seminole-countys-senator-tree-alive-again-art/
  6. ^ http://www.seminolecountyfl.gov/parksrec/PassiveParksandBoatRamps/BigTreePark.aspx
  7. ^ "The Senator Cypress is re-elected to top position in Eastern Forests". Eastern Native Tree Society. 2006-05-08. Retrieved 2012-01-16. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 28°43′11.2″N 81°19′52.65″W / 28.719778°N 81.3312917°W / 28.719778; -81.3312917