Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Obituary for “The Senator”

3500 years before present to January 16th, 2012

The beloved Pond Cypress (Taxodium ascendens), affectionately nicknamed “the Senator”, was born 3500 years ago in what is present day Longwood, Florida. The 125 foot tall, seventeen and a half foot diameter trunked, deciduous hardwood was considered the 5th oldest tree in the world, the oldest Pond Cypress in the world and the oldest tree in the eastern United States.

The Senator, like other members of its species was well known for its thin, waxy, needles and a preference for growing in poorly drained natural depressions. Cousin of the Pond Cypress, the Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum) is known for waxy, feathery needles and can be found in well nourished floodplains. Both have round cones, buttressed roots, thick, fire resistant bark and supportive “knees”.

The Senator is survived by seven clones that have been transplanted around the state as well as Lady Liberty, the Senator’s 2000 year old companion tree in Big Tree Park.

Photo by Jared Lennon

Breaking News: Death of an Iconic Conifer

Investigators have arrested a woman who admits to lighting a fire that accidentally torched a 3500 year old Pond Cypress in Longwood, FL. Arson was initially ruled out in the death of “the Senator”, due to the intensity of the blaze in the upper portion of the tree, leading investigators to blame a lightning strike for the fire. Despite evidence that a fire might have been set in the base of the hollowed out trunk of the ancient tree, it wasn’t until witnesses came forward with information regarding the crime that the full story unfolded. The woman in question, 24 year old Sara Barnes, admitted to lighting a fire to see the drugs she was about to take. The apparent out-of-control fire blazed up through the nearly hollowed out trunk and into the canopy. The suspect took photos but did not call 911, instead she bragged about it days later. Fire crews had to pull hoses over one mile to reach the Senator by which time it was too late. The massive tree collapsed to the ground.


Pond Cypress and Bald Cypress can be found through out the southeastern United States and although much of the old growth has been cut there are still places where centuries old cypress can be found (like the one above, photographed in Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Naples, FL). Still, cypress-filled wetlands are destroyed by the acre each day due to development. We’ll never have another Senator “unless”….

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