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‘A tremendous loss’: Tree believed to be oldest in North Texas uprooted by heavy rain

City of Plano's picture of the failed Bur Oak.
A giant bur oak estimated at more than 400 years old and regarded as the oldest tree in North Texas collapsed Oct. 25 during a heavy rain storm. The Quadricentennial Bur Oak, located in Bob Woodruff Park in Plano, was around before the U.S. Constitution was signed in 1787, arborists say. Photo by City of Plano.

Published October 31, 2023, By HARRIET RAMOS

A bur oak that was regarded as the oldest and largest tree in North Texas has fallen, uprooted Thursday by heavy rain, Plano city officials said.

The Quadricentennial Bur Oak, located in Bob Woodruff Park, stood 90 feet high and measured 15-and-a-half feet around, according to a Plano news release. Arborists estimate the age of the tree at more than 400 years.

“It’s a tremendous loss for the field of arboriculture, for anybody that really cares and loves these old trees,” arborist Steve Houser said in a video released Friday on Plano’s Facebook page.

Marc Beaudoing, Plano’s urban forester, said they’d tried a variety of tactics to preserve the historic tree, including reduction pruning and injections of fertilizer and insecticide. The tree had started to lean more and more in the past 10-20 years, Beaudoing said on the video.

The large amount of rain was too much for the bur oak to handle with its pre-existing conditions, including a crack arborists had repaired with a metal brace and some rot, according to Beaudoing.

In the 1980s, arborists estimated the age of the tree at 243 years, according to the Texas Historic Tree Coalition. The bur oak was designated a Bicentennial Tree in 1987 in recognition for having existed when the U.S. Constitution was signed in 1787.

Arborists revised those calculations in 2006 after examining samples of a limb that had blown down in a high wind. The limb was estimated at 226 years, leading some arborists to believe the bur oak was actually 400-500 years old, according to the Texas Historic Tree Coalition.

Houser described the historic bur oak as an “old friend” and said it was unlike any other tree he’d ever climbed.

“You start to sense the personality of trees when you’ve spent a lot of time climbing them, moving throughout their limbs and things of that nature,” Houser said in the video. “So it’s my absolute favorite tree of all times.”

Plano Parks and Recreation Department has asked the public to stay away from the area where the tree was located due to unsafe conditions, according to the news release.

This story was originally published October 31, 2023, 2:19 PM.

About the author

Ms. Harriet Ramos

Ms. Ramos reports for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, part of the McClatchy Media Network.

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