BASKING RIDGE, N.J. – After decades of being supported by cables and crutches, a 600-year-old white oak tree, believed to be the oldest of its kind in the world, has died.
The tree, located on the property of a local presbyterian church, and described as a symbol of home by local residents, has seen war, natural disasters, droughts, and over a thousand storms. George Washington picnicked under it and revolutionary war soldiers are buried beneath it.
The oak ultimately succumbed to the effects of the summer heat, according to arborists. In July, a reported heat spell caused the oak to stop ridding itself of water through its leaves. That process, known as evapotranspiration, is necessary to an oak’s survival during storms. A 12-hour downpour followed the heat – flooding the tree’s roots.
Stiles Machinery announced it will provide support to the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive. Based in Michigan, the organization propagates some of Earth's oldest trees by cloning cuttings of the centuries-old specimens.
For decades, the tree has been on life support – assisted by crutches and cables. At the center of the community, the tree’s extensive roots could no longer sustain themselves. The growth of its roots was blocked by the cemetery, and there are no neighboring trees to support it.
Removing the tree will not be an easy process. A nearby church has assembled a task force to remove the oak beginning in 2017. Estimated costs are over $40,000.
The oak tree has been a big part of the Basking Ridge community and a memorial will be held. Suggestions as to how to remember the tree have included carving out a statue of the tree in its trunk, carving out a history of the country or the community in its trunk and preserving the tree's acorns to replant it. The town will come together to celebrate the life of the oak on November 6.