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Earth Science

3,500 Year Old Florida Tree Dies of Natural Causes 206

hondo77 writes with an excerpt from The Daily "'Mother Nature claimed one of her oldest living specimens (Monday) in a freak fire that destroyed a 3,500-year-old bald cypress tree towering over central Florida. Known as "The Senator," or simply "The Big Tree," the hollowed-out majestic timber, standing at 118 feet tall, ignited before dawn. Firefighters watched helplessly as the oldest tree east of the Mississippi — and the fifth oldest in the world — blazed and then collapsed in a heap of flaming embers.' The fire likely started by 'either a weeks- old lightning strike that smoldered until combustion occured, or friction caused by buffeting winds that ignited a spark and erupted in flames.'"
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3,500 Year Old Florida Tree Dies of Natural Causes

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  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Thursday February 02, 2012 @10:13AM (#38901901)

    This one would have had a TON of boring stories about animals walking by.

    • by GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <gameboyrmh@@@gmail...com> on Thursday February 02, 2012 @10:23AM (#38902009) Journal

      On one hand one of the oldest trees in the world is no more, but on the other hand a Senator died in a fire...

      • by Fjandr ( 66656 )

        If only this would happen to all the Senators. Maybe they'll all be struck by lightning and burst into flames a few days later. One can only dream...

    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      Well, I've found that there are no boring stories, only boring writers. How well did that old tree write, anyway?

    • Wow, you sure get a lot of first posts. Are you retired?

      • My theory is that it's a very small shell script. We should use it to replace one of the legacy "editor" scripts, it's not even remotely credible that they're really humans.
      • The asterisk by his name means he is a /. subscriber.

        He can see stories and prepare a post before the story goes live for everyone else.

        It's the non-subscribers who gets lots of first posts you need to watch out for.

    • but think of all the exciting revelations in news stories it could have told, featuring that bears shit in the woods
      • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) *

        Kids: Tell us about the Revolutionary War!

        Tree: The what?

        Kids: You know, what were George Washington and Abraham Lincoln like in person? That sort of stuff!

        Tree: Yeah, I pretty much just stand here in the woods. I can tell you about that time an eagle made a nest in one of my branches, though.

        Kids: But what of the Civil War?

        Tree: I don't think you're getting it...

    • I think it would also disagree with the article title... A tree burning down is as much "dying of natural causes" as someone "dying from an allergic reaction" to lead, after being shot 6 times in the head.
      • In this case, since the investigation found the fire was caused either by lightning strike or some strange circumstance (not arson) - it would be more like dying from an allergic reaction to bee stings. Still relatively natural.
  • What's the year again? (Observe confirmation bias to have a smash year this year.)
    • by Anrego ( 830717 ) *

      A good omen? :(

      I guess omens are rarely good.. especially when they involve things burning :(

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I live right by the park, I could have thrown a rock at the tree. It happened January 16th, this story is old.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Shotgun ( 30919 )

      I live halfway up the US coast in North Carolina. I too could have thrown a rock at the tree.

      Wouldn't have hit it, but....


  • by batquux ( 323697 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @10:18AM (#38901971)

    Natural causes? Freak fire? Which is it?

  • by eldavojohn ( 898314 ) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday February 02, 2012 @10:19AM (#38901979) Journal
    In Florida? Are you serious? Does anyone else realize that unless there's a hurricane Florida (especially central Florida) is basically a dead zone for winds [anl.gov]. That's not to say a freak wind storm couldn't occur but I've lived in some pretty windy places and never heard of a fire started by buffeting winds. Lightning, yes. I've googled for it, can someone point me to evidence of this phenomena actually happening? Having tried to get a spark or start fire by rubbing two sticks together, I can tell you that it would indeed by a freak occurrence if wind did just that.
    • My best guess is that it would be a localized wind pattern caused by a hill, valley, etc or even buildings if its anywhere near a city. it doesn't take much. Combine it with exceptionally dry air and it wouldn't take much for static electricity to start arcing. If there's any source of flammable gases such as hydrogen or methane beign stuck in the tree, it would take that much less of a spark to ignite.

      However, I'm still betting on lighting or a stray cigarette.

      • >> hydrogen or methane beign stuck in the tree

        So you're saying flatulent possums are responsible then?

      • Not saying this couldn't happen, but central Florida is flat and humid and the closest tall buildings to that park are in Orlando, many miles away.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's so improbable. Such a freak occurrence might only happen once every three and a half thousand years...

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I live within 30 minutes of the tree, and we hadn't had any type of lightning for well over a month or two. The whole thing comes off as a bid odd here..

    • What you linked to is a power map. We get wind all the time here but it is only as fronts go across the state. You wouldn't want to put a wind turbine here but we gets strong winds quite frequently.

  • by rbrander ( 73222 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @10:38AM (#38902171) Homepage

    Wow. I wonder if that ever happened before.

  • by StoutFiles ( 2471680 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @10:47AM (#38902271)
    You decided I wasn't an orc. I'll never forget you.
  • This tree clearly self-immolated to protest deforestation and global warming. Maybe this will start a general protest among the trees and instead of an Arab Spring we will have an Arbor Spring.
  • If only Florida had imported elephants to prevent wild fires this tree would still be alive today.

  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @11:36AM (#38902711)
    15% of us die of accidents, violence or suicide in our 80 year lifespans. Eliminating all natural causes of death would only extend our lives so much, unless we practiced a culture of extreme safety. (This has been the theme of many scifi stories about immortals.)
    Some trees may essentially immortal, but suffer from weather or animal trauma etc. Almost nothing is alive older than 10K years.
  • by FridayBob ( 619244 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @11:50AM (#38902867) Homepage
    Florida is supposed to be subtropical with a relatively wet climate, but at the moment the place seems bone dry. Many wetlands have simply dried up and people fear that even most 'gator holes will not be deep enough for the reptiles to survive any significant frosts (the poor critters look pretty skinny as it is). Therefore, I guess it's not totally surprising that parts of the forest seem to be going up in flames spontaneously. When I lived there as a kid in the 60s and 70s, drought was never an issue, but now it has been for more than the past decade. To me, this is yet another strong sign that, climatologically, we live in a changing world.
  • by realsilly ( 186931 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @11:52AM (#38902893)

    This story happened weeks ago, and originally it was suspected as arson, and that it was in too dense of an area for Firefighters to reach. Here is a link to the NPR story.

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2012/01/17/145342304/one-of-worlds-oldest-cypress-trees-the-senator-burns-in-florida [npr.org].

    This happened in mid-January. "On Monday (Jan. 16, 2012) Seminole County firefighter Al Caballero applied water to the smoldering base of The Senator. "

  • by PPH ( 736903 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @11:53AM (#38902907)

    It just spent winters in Florida.

  • by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @12:12PM (#38903165) Homepage Journal
    Was it natural causes or was it... MURDER?! Certainly no one would SUSPECT the other trees in the area! But they all just STOOD there!
  • No photo? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MaWeiTao ( 908546 ) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @12:32PM (#38903423)

    I like how the damn article refers to this tree being majestic but then doesn't even feature a photo of the tree. Instead they present the reader with three useless photos.

    In this day and age it's inexcusable for a news site to not feature big, quality photos. It took me all of 5 seconds to do a search online and find a good photo of the tree. You mean to tell me the so-called journalist who wrote this article couldn't have done the same? And then get some intern to get in touch with the rights-holder for permission to run it?

  • Mother Nature claimed one of her oldest living specimens (Monday) in a freak ...

    I saw this on the news weeks ago. The article itself is dated Tuesday, January 17, 2012 (Last Monday Was January 30th). Shouldn't someone catch this stuff before it is published?

"For a male and female to live continuously together is... biologically speaking, an extremely unnatural condition." -- Robert Briffault