Everyday Gardeners

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Help Save a Tree—Today Only!

Just got word that the city of Kewanee, Illinois, is scheduled to cut down an historical Osage-orange tree tomorrow (Tuesday, Nov. 24). Why care? Because it is the sole remaining tree of an original hedge row planted in 1840. Yes, BEFORE the Civil War!

This 170-year-old Osage-orange tree is slated to be removed tomorrow unless a stay of execution is obtained.

This 170-year-old Osage-orange tree is slated to be removed tomorrow unless a stay of execution is obtained.

The tree is leaning and there are concerns about safety. However, arborists point out that it has been leaning for decades (see photos below) without causing problems. Osage-orange trees have interweaving fibers that resist splitting, making them very strong. “Its density and shear strength are among the highest of all Temperate Zone trees,” says arborist and author Guy Sternberg. “This modifies all the standard rules about hazard evaluation…”

These 1992 photos show that the tree has been leaning for years.

These 1992 photos show that the tree has been leaning for years.

Supporters of the tree are asking that the removal be postponed until other options have been considered.  Those options include pruning and cabling to alleviate perceived safety issues. At the very least, scion wood should be saved so this historical tree can be cloned.

If you would like to help save this tree, contact the Kewanee city manager (click here for contact info).

7 Responses to “ Help Save a Tree—Today Only! ”

  1. I agree with the caption to the picture in the Star-Courier–that tree is leaning too far out over the road!
    But does that mean it needs be removed?

    As with all trees, there are many options available to manage the risk associated with this tree. Pruning is an obvious first step–a qualified arborist could make four cuts and restore symmetry and greatly increase the level of safety, all in a few hours’ time. Over time, the tree would very likely grow a more compact and stable form. Obviously no pruning has been done on this tree for a very long time–not the tree’s fault!

    The International Society of Arboriculture, headquartered in Champaign, IL, is the world’s leading source of information on managing urban trees. We urge the City to review ISA information regarding trees and stability before deciding on the most extreme approach. It’s essential that when we look at tree risk, we examine their strengths as well as their weaknesses, and follow a systematic process.

    My experience pruning hedge trees at Starhill Forest near Petersburg IL last summer reminded me of the exceptional toughness of these trees, and their ability to reshape themselves after branch loss. Before removing this tie to Kewanee’s history, and what appears to be the only tree in the area, we encourage the City to take a closer look at all of the costs involved, and consider more conservative and economical options.

    Thank You for your consideration,

    Guy Meilleur
    ISA Board-Certified Master Arborist #SO-0284

  2. I have to say I’m in agreement with Guy Meilleur in regards to this tree. I see no reason to remove it; there are plenty of other options, most of which are less expensive.

    Erik Lowell, Owner/Arborist
    New England Tree Service

  3. I would also like to suggest that a qualified arborist check out this tree prior to its removal. Although I now teach forestry classes in ND, I grew up in Avon, IL and have dealt with a lot of osage orange. A tree with this much history should be cared for if at all possible. Having dug out 100 year old fence posts on my father’s farm, I know that the odds of this tree falling over are slim to none. If you would like, I will be in Illinois about Dec 18 for a family get together and would be happy to inspect the tree and possibly do some pruning if you so desire. If you would like the name of a local arborist, check with Dr. Tom Watson at Western Illinois University. He was a pathologist at Morton Arboreteum for many years prior to teaching at Western. I am sure he would be glad to look at the tree for you.

    Once again, please reconsider your plan of action on this city landmark which took many years to form and is probably more permanent than most of the downtown buildings.

    Bob Underwood
    Underwood and Associates
    Dakota College at Bottineau
    Bottineau, ND
    by way of Avon, IL

  4. Please consider all options before your final decision on this heritage tree. In my neck of the woods, the county would not remove a tree for leaning over a street. They would try to resolve a means to minimize a failure and then wait for the consequences of clean up and road closure.
    I agree with Guy Miller and

  5. Good news! The Kewanee City Council has agreed to immediately prune the tree for safety, but not to remove it entirely at this time. This will give arborists a chance to develop a plan to save the tree.

  6. Since it an historic tree special measures can be taken to assess if there is any current wind throw happening.

    An eye bolt can be installed in the tree from which a plumb bob can be hung. A survey mark is made on the road where the bob hangs down and the tree can be checked for movement periodically, especially after a high wind event.

    If no movement is seen with the plumb bob then people can be assured that the tree is as safe as any street tree can be.

  7. I’m so relieved that the City Council has agreed to further assessment. I’m so sad when these old “treasures” are just chopped down like some pesky weed. Given the many decades needed to produce a gem like this, an assessment is certainly a more prudent next step.

    Congratulations to the city of Kewanee!

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