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Death of the tallest known Ponderosa Pine

This post is in memory of one of the world’s tallest known pines. Big Pine campground became a designated spot for hikers, 20 miles southwest of Grant’s Pass. The big pine that dominated the landscape enjoyed many years of worldwide travelers looking to sneak a peak at its glorious countenance. Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest’s giant pine measured to an astounding 250 feet before it met its untimely demise, another victim of the ruthless pine beetle.

This prominent tree made the 1989 heritage tree list commemorating the 200th anniversary of the signing of the U. S. Constitution. This tree, among only 60 other trees nationwide, was a designated Living Witness Tree for the U. S. Constitution Bicentennial. The bark of these pines can be traced to a time where they were crafted into a canoe to assist Lewis and Clark as they crossed the Columbian river. These prehistoric trees are a testimony to the history of our nation, describing the vitality of America’s canopy as far back as the signing of the constitution.

The health of our forests is important to our future, as they have played a huge role in the history that has shaped our nation. The ecological importance of America’s old growth is boundless, present during a time in which no living humans remain. Local ecosystems persist around them and thrive because of them. Historic trees preserve national secrets as well as demonstrate the resilience of our nation. We hope the legacy of the Ponderosa Pine of Grant Pass in the form of its bronzed plaque can be preserved in the Smithsonian Museum of American History for future generations to admire.

Despite its passing, this tree still stands. Nearby campgrounds have been closed for the safety of travelers.

Michael Oxman, an ISA arborist committed to getting the marker to the Smithsonian, brought the passing of this pine to our attention.

Background information regarding Ponderosa Pines graciously provided by NPR. The article titled Ponderosa Pines: Rugged Trees With A Sweet Smell composed by Daniel Kraker can be found here:

As well as information provided by Terry Richard who composed World's tallest ponderosa pine climbed, measured at 268 feet outside Grants Pass. This article can be found here:

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Confessions from a Former Coniferphile

For all those pine tree haters, be sure to read about their deeming qualities by conifer loving Neil Pedereson.  From his blog at the Earth Institute, Columbia University.  Link to full article at bottom. 

By Neil Pederson

I will admit it, there was a time when I loved conifers. Like, I was truly fanatical about coniferous trees. The first time I felt that way was upon walking among the great eastern white pine trees in the Adirondack State Park as an undergraduate research assistant and student. My first exposure to some truly impressive pumpkin pine was in the grove of old trees at the Pack Forest. These trees, charismatically represented by the Grandmother Tree, are truly impressive if you are seeing old-growth forests in northeastern North America for the first time. Soon after, I was taken on a hike to see a few large eastern white pine at the ranger school on Cranberry Lake. I was enamored.

As my educational path careened southward, I was brought to the large and old loblolly pines in the Congaree National Park in South Carolina. It was just a few years post-Hurricane Hugo and about half of the dense, massive loblollies were blown over. But, there were, and are, patches in the upper Coastal Plain that can give you a sense of how tree-mendous this forest was preio to Hugo. While not ancient, these trees are old for their species (the oldest tree was confirmed alive just a few days ago, making it at least 246 years old!). Please, go see these trees before they topple, especially in the heat of the summer. The scent they emit in the southern heat is savory.

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Loblolly Pine Failure

Loblolly Pines are prevalent in the deep south and are very common in the South's Urban Forest.  I had the false impression that Loblolly Pine trees typically failed in ice storms in the winter or by snapping.  Here is a picture of a Loblolly Pine that failed on top of my friend's house in Atlanta.  Perhaps some trees had been removed near it changing the load of the tree or it was the drought of the from 2007.  Either way, typically I do not see Loblolly Pines fail from the root plate.  I guess there are exceptions to everything.  Luckily no one was hurt.  I am particularly concerned about the failure rate and descriptions since my home is surrounded by them!
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