Friday, January 16, 2009

Visiting with the Ents

Many may not realize this, but central Florida is host to a very special tree. Named "The Senator", it is believed to be the oldest and largest baldcypress tree in the United States. Estimated to be 3500 years old, it started growing around the same time that the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt occurred. It would have already been an impressive tree around the time of Christ's birth, having been around for 1500 years then. Here are some other statistics for this tree:
  • Age: 3500 years – one of the oldest trees in the U.S.A.
  • Diameter: 17.5 feet.
  • Circumference: 47 feet
  • Height: 118 feet
  • Board feet of wood: Approximately 50,000
Here is a photo of several of my children, several of my nieces and a family friend all near the tree. Note that the perspective effects of the wide angle setting on my camera makes the tree seem smaller than it is by comparison, as they are some 30 feet or so from the tree where they are standing. If they were all standing near the base, the tree would be roughly as wide as the whole group.

This tree can be found in Big Tree Park in Lake Mary, Florida, along with its 2,000-year-old companion, Lady Liberty. The Cross Seminole Trail runs by this park as well, across US 17-92 and on into the Spring Hammock Preserve. The nearby Soldier Creek Trail boast several other large cypresses as well. To make a lame attempt to relate this back to orchids, we've seen three species along these trails, Epidendrum magnoliae, Spiranthes odorata, and Habenaria odontopetala.

Both the big trees at Big Tree Park evoke a sense of awe and wonder...each rising like a giant column out of the earth. Unlike younger cypresses which tend to be thin at the top and much wider at the bottom, these trees are roughly straight-sided all the way to their crowns high above. It is rather sad when you think that entire forests of giants like these used to roam our state before falling to the woodsman's axe.

In the presence of these ancient and mighty trees, it is easy to feel just how fleeting and ephemeral our lives really are.

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