A white oak tree in Basking Ridge, New Jersey was twice as old as the United States. But it couldn’t survive another summer.
The 600-year-old tree is said to be the oldest white oak in the country and has been a backdrop to major events in our nation’s history. George Washington and his soldiers were said to have picnicked under its branches in the days of the American Revolution.
The tree, which stands next to Basking Ridge Presbyterian Church, had been diligently maintained for centuries. In the 1930s, a large cavity inside the tree was filled with cement. As its branches began to grow heavy, a local water company installed 260 feet of steel rods and 1,500 feet of steel cables to support its weight.
But all that love and care wasn’t enough to save the tree from this summer’s extreme heat followed by periods of torrential downpours.
The Beginning Of The End
A few brown leaves appeared in early August. By the middle of the month, the tree's leaves were entirely brown. Soil tests and consultations with experts confirmed the mighty oak’s death in September, the New York Times reports.
"The tree really, really suffered from the extreme heat and occasional tremendous downpours this summer,” Jon Klippel, a member of the church's Planning Council, told NJ.com. “The conditions have been very stressful on a tree of this age and in this condition."
Well, this makes me sad: 600-year-old(!!) oak tree in center of beautiful Basking Ridge, NJ, Finally Succumbs https://t.co/bJ0FdCIpAh— John Branch (@JohnBranchNYT) October 17, 2016
Old age was likely a more direct factor in the tree’s demise than this summer’s weather, but the effect of climate change on trees shouldn’t be discounted.