2015 Great American Tree Competition

Survivor Tree

Nominated by: Brandon Bowman

Please accept my nomination of the "Survivor Tree", an American Elm located at the Oklahoma City National Memorial, for the 2015 Great American Tree Competition. The Survivor Tree has deep and significant meaning for my community.  It is located on a promontory at the Memorial site, in the heart of downtown Oklahoma City.  It is 90-100 years old, and began life in the backyard of a residence, based on photographs of the site from the 1920s. In the following decades, it grew in a parking lot between the Murrah and Journal Record buildings, considered by many to be more of an eyesore than a thing of beauty with its unbalanced appearance and oddly angled branches, but it was appreciated by some who would come to work early just to park in the shade underneath its branches.

However, the tree became much more than a shady spot to park on April 19th, 1995, when it survived and stood witness to a horrific act of terrorism perpetrated on American soil. A 4,000-pound bomb was detonated outside the Murrah building, claiming the lives of 168 innocent people and injuring countless others.  The tree withstood the blast and stood as a testament to resilience in the face of terror and of hope for the future.

Evidence and debris from the explosion were entangled and embedded in the elm's branches and trunk, and there was talk of cutting the tree down to retrieve the material. But survivors, rescue workers, and the community came together to preserve and protect the tree, making the preservation of Survivor Tree an integral part of the mission statement of the Memorial site.

Mark Bays, an urban forested with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, made it his personal mission to protect the Survivor Tree and see that it would thrive and live for years to come.  Bays worked with the Memorial designers Hans and Torrey Butzer and the construction crews to see that the tree was protected during construction and that it would have a an aeration and watering system to help the tree grow.  Everyone who works at the Memorial displays a commitment to the survival and well being of the Survival Tree that is evident in its verdant green leaves and strong branches.

Ground crew and facilities management at the Memorial regularly collect seeds from the Survivor Tree, and saplings grown from the seeds and cuttings are regularly raised in greenhouses all across Oklahoma and are distributed and are growing in public and private sites all across the United States.

Species:  American Elm (Ulmus americana)

Height:  40'

Diameter: around 60' (branch end to branch end)

Location:  35.473294, -97.516726; 620 N. Harvey Ave, Oklahoma City, OK 73102

 

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2015's Winner

That Tree was the winner of the 2015 Great American Tree Competition.