Experts work to save Buffalo's oldest tree

Oct 2, 2017

Even though it has been attacked by disease, the future for Buffalo's oldest tree should be much greener. Given its age, the sycamore is a rarity in today's world. That has led experts in the field to donate their services to help keep the Franklin Street landmark alive for years to come.

Several small pilot holes were recently drilled into the base of a 300-year-old tree on Franklin near Edward Street. The tree is more than six feet across, so there is enough space around the bottom for about three dozen holes - and each one gets a specially designed plug tapped into it.  

"There's a small white rubber septum. That's what we pierce with our needle to penetrate into the tree," said Rob Gorden. He is the Director of Urban Forestry for Arborjet - one of three companies lending their expertise, free of charge, to try and save the old sycamore. The plugs, he says, provide a tight seal and help ensure Arborjet's pressurized chemicals are administered at the proper depth.
"We're going to be tapping into the tree's own vascular tissue. They have tissue much like our arteries and veins. And we're going to tap into that tissue and we're going to inject our chemistry into the tree to protect the tree from within," Gorden said.  
The tree's infected with a leaf and twig disease known as anthracnose which weakens it and makes it more susceptible to pests and disease.  
"The spores from the disease are actually present in the fall so treatment now makes sense. And then we'll be coming back in the early spring before the leaves come out and making another application then," Gorden said.

Even though the tree is massive, Gorden says, by injecting the treatment  all that's needed is a total of two-liters of chemicals and water.  

"It's the difference between an IV in the hospital and giving you medicine that you put in your mouth. It's a very different system. So we're going direct into the veins," Gorden said.   

Which he says also makes it safer for people their pets and wildlife.
"One of the things that makes this methodology unique is that it is very self-contained so therefore it is an environmentally friendly solution to protecting trees. Nothing is in the soil. Nothing is in the water. Nothing is in the air. Nothing is sprayed," Gorden said.

Along with Massachusetts based Arborjet, SiteOne Landscaping and Draves Tree Service of Darien are also donating their services  equipment and materials, which Gorden says, has a value of several hundred dollars. But he says the tree is irreplaceable.
"There are precious few what we call champion trees. There is a tree in Michigan that's an ash tree that's 86 inches in diameter that we're protecting. I was just at a champion cottonwood tree in the deserts of Arizona that is 45 feet in diameter the other day. We're not protecting that tree. But to look at a tree of that size gives us an inkling of what this country was like before we harvested all of these trees and planted crops. So there are very few of these really monster trees around and I think it's our obligation to preserve them for the future," Gorden said.  

City of Buffalo Forester, Ross Hassinger says, the companies' generous donation is greatly appreciated.
"We're very thankful to these folks for taking on this project and protecting this tree," Hassinger said.