Monday, January 16, 2012

Death of "The Senator" - Florida's Largest Tree dies in Mysterious Fire

Men show the width of "The Senator" in this historic image.
Florida Memory Collection
In a stunning tragedy, a 3,500 year old cypress tree known as "The Senator" has been reduced to ash in a mysterious fire. Florida's largest tree all but vanished from the landscape in a single day.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that firefighters responded to the park in Longwood where "The Senator" was located at about 5:50 Eastern time this morning. The giant tree was found to be burning intensely and there was nothing that emergency workers could do to save it. By midday, it was gone. Only ashes and the charred stump remain to show that it ever existed at all.

The Florida Forest Service reports that the fire is not thought to have been caused by arson, but otherwise the origin of the blaze is a mystery. Additional investigation is underway.

You can read the Sentinel's full report by clicking here:,0,6171920.story.

"The Senator" as it once appeared.
Florida Memory Collection
The destruction of "The Senator" did not damage the nearby "Lady Liberty" tree, which is thought to be around 2,000 years old.

Giant cypress trees once dominated the landscape of Florida, where they had grown for thousands of years prior to the arrival of European explorers in the state. Most were felled during the timber days of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but a few still remain.

The lifetime of "The Senator," if marked by human events, included the life of Jesus Christ, the fall of the Roman Empire, the signing of the Magna Carta, the arrival of Viking explorers in North America, the rise and decline of the Woodland and Mississippian cultures among Native Americans in Florida, the European discovery of Florida by Juan Ponce de Leon, the expedition of Hernando de Soto, the founding of St. Augustine (the first permanent city in the United States) in 1565, the founding of Jamestown in 1607, the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620, the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, the founding of the United States, the War of 1812, the First, Second and Third Seminole Wars, the Civil War, the Spanish American War, World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam and millions of other significant events. Through them all, the great old cypress marked the time.  Now it is gone.

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