A tree’s days like those of all life are finite. The loss of a tree can evoke many of the same emotions as the death of a human and a beloved pet. Just last week, our arborists had to remove one of the most majestic trees in the Rochester, New York, area.
Surely you heard about the copper beech tree in Pittsford. News of its impending removal reached the four corners of the globe, thanks to the Associated Press. I even read the story in the New York Times.
That majestic tree had stood in the same spot since the early part of the 19th century. Its graceful branches spread out over the village as if protecting it. Its beautiful copper-colored leaves gave a unique hue to the park that the village built around the tree
Imagine what that tree witnessed over its lifetime of more than 200 years. The settlement, the growth and the development of the village and the town that surround it. But alas, all good things must come to an end. In this case, the copper beech’s decline was caused by a microscopic fungus.
The copper beech was so beloved by Pittsford residents that it was incorporated into the town logo. And, the night before our crew was scheduled to take the tree down, the town invited resident to join in a ceremony to say goodbye to it.
While the rot fungus, Kretzschmaria deusta, ate away at the tree from the inside out like a cancer, the forward thinking town leaders had healthy cuttings taken from high up in the tree. These have been rooted and are now about a year from sapling size. Once they reach sapling size, these clones, which will have the same exact genetic footprint as the parent tree, will be ready for planting at various locations around town. One place they can’t be planted, however, is in Copper Beach Park where the original tree stood. That soil is contaminated with the fungus.
It is my hope that the story of the copper beech and how Copper Beech Park got its name is written into any local history curriculum taught in Pittsford schools. Then, hopefully, some local official won’t come along years from now and question why the park is named Copper Beech Park when there’s no copper beech there…and move, with no opposition, to change the name. That would prove the truth to what Spanish poet and philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Dave Dailey is a board certified master arborist and one of 13 certified arborists, eight New York State certified pesticide applicators and nine certified nursery and landscape professionals on staff at Birchcrest Tree & Landscape, a full service tree, lawn and landscape company. The phone number is (585) 671-5433 and the website is birchcrestlandscape.com.