Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Treasured champion bur oak to receive much-need care

In mid-Missouri, generations have known it simply as “The Big Tree.”

With a 140-foot crown spread, the nearly 100-foot tall bur oak located just off the Katy Trail near McBaine is a contender as a national champion. Most evenings, dozens of visitors to the tree take in the beauty of the countryside and gaze at grandeur of the McBaine Bur Oak.

But as the sprawling giant is closing in on its 400th birthday, the tree is showing its age.

“The last few years I have seen the tree in decline and that is why we are stepping up once again to help this treasure,” says William Spradley, owner and president of Trees, Forests and Landscapes. “I have a passion for large trees and this being one of the biggest nationally somebody needed to come forward to give the tree some much-needed care.”

On October 22, Spradley and his team of arborists from the Kirkwood-based tree care company will join forces with several others from across Missouri down in the Missouri River bottomlands, just a few miles south of Columbia, to care for the tree. Work to be done will include removing hazardous dead limbs, fertilization, soil aeration, mulching and special chemical treatments developed for older mature trees.

“We will be applying a chemical called Cambistat,” explains Spradley, a veteran to the tree care industry with more than three decades in the field. “The chemical helps slow vegetative growth and signals the tree to put more effort into root density and improve resistance to insects and diseases. Due to years of impact from visitors to tree compacting the soil and a prolonged mix of extreme weather, the tree has been fighting a battle on many fronts. This treatment has been known world-wide to help older trees.”

Spradley adds he has also seen signs of potential root rot in the tree and a beneficial fungicide to control the detrimental disease will be applied near the base of the tree’s trunk.

Thanks to the generosity of the Missouri Cooperatives Right Of Way Management Association lightning protection for the tree will be installed with assistance from linemen from Boone and Cuivre River electric cooperatives.

The Missouri Community Forestry Council also assisted in organizing the day and coordinating efforts with the parties involved. The group is made of members across the state committed to urban forestry issues and dedicated for to the stewardship for Missouri’s community forests.

Spradley discovered the tree like many do in Columbia — while in college at the University of Missouri. After graduating with a degree in forest management, Spradley went on to work in the horticulture field and in 1990 founded his own company.

Today, his team at Trees, Forests and Landscapes is made of some of the top professional arborists in the St. Louis area, dedicated to tree preservation and the care and improvement of urban forests.

“This tree inspired me to a career in tree preservation,” admits Spradley. “This tree means so much to many people. I take pride in helping out the best way I can to something that is a big part of this community.”

In 2008, Trees, Forests and Landscapes donated their time for a day of tree care for the bur oak owned by local farmer John Sam Williamson.  Spradley says that the work performed then is similar to what the arborists have planned this year. “The work we did then seem to really help and we hope that we can help keep this tree for future generations,” he adds.

The St. Louis Arborist Association, City of Richmond Heights, University of Missouri Extension, Pizza Tree and the International Oak Society have made additional donations.

Work will begin at 10 a.m. and will conclude in the late afternoon.

If wanting to visit the tree while work is being done, from Columbia take Providence Road south. Past the intersection with Highway 163, the road turns into Highway K. Continue south for 12 miles. After crossing over the Katy Trail and through the town of McBaine, the tree will be just off the road on the right.

For more information, call William Spradley at 314-821-9918 or email at treesforests@sbcglobal.net.

For more about Trees, Forests and Landscapes, visit www.treesforestsandlandscapes.com. Visit http://mocommunitytrees.com/ to learn more about the Missouri Community Forestry Council’s efforts in Missouri.

A printable informational flyer is available to download at http://bit.ly/H0bvlm.

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