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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Death of a Giant

Author: Guest Writer/Sunday, January 22, 2012/Categories: Uncategorized

In the Biblical fable, Methuselah lived in the year 1656 after the Creation and died at the age of nearly 1000 years old, seven days before Noah’s flood. The phrase "old as Methuselah," often refers to any living thing reaching great age.

That would certainly be true for a giant Bald Cypress that was more than 3500 years old and just burned to the ground in a puzzling fire. The cypress was a sapling before the ancient Egyptians or Greeks built their temples and civilizations. It had been protected in Big Tree Park, set aside solely to conserve the grove of trees where it stood long before theme parks, shopping malls, and freeways replaced the surrounding swamplands. The park was popular with Florida visitors wanting to view a fragment of an earlier time and environment in the state.

       The-Senator-cypress-tree-Big-Tree-Park                           The-Senator-cypress-Florida-State-archives

The Senator Bald Cypress               The Senator Bald Cypress

(credit: Big Tree Park)                    (credit: Florida State Archives) 

The Senator, named after an early Florida senator, had been damaged nearly a century earlier by a hurricane which lopped off 40 feet of its original 169 feet height but the cypress still stood over 18 feet in diameter at the base. It was an impressive sight indeed. Various reports indicate that the cause of the fire is unknown. It may have resulted from a lightening strike into the tree’s hollow trunk that smoldered before igniting or it could have been arson. The park is closed to solve the mystery.

The Senator Cypress Burning (credit: ABC News)

Like their coniferous cousins, the famous Cedars of Lebanon and the gnarly Bristlecone Pines of the Western United States, such ancient trees amaze us, enrich our lives, tells fascinating stories of past environments, and deserve protection and restoration.

If its roots were not damaged in the fire, it is possible that green shoots will sprout from the dead Senator’s base. However, it will require many lifetimes to replace such a grand tree that once stood watching in  silence over a Florida landscape as it changed for nearly four millennia.





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