The Balmville Tree

Discussions of trees and forests of historical importance or simply of exceptional trees. Discussions should also be cloned into the appropriate location section of the BBS.

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The Balmville Tree

Post by ElijahW » Mon Feb 25, 2019 4:31 pm

Balmville Tree
Balmville Tree
Yesterday, while driving through Newburgh, NY, I came upon what was left of the historic Balmville Tree. This Eastern Cottonwood, preemptively cut down and removed in 2015 because of concerns about its structural integrity, was purportedly in excess of 300 years old. Many of you probably are familiar with the Balmville Tree and its history: both George Washington and Franklin Delano Roosevelt supposedly stood under its branches, and it claimed (at least in many peoples’ minds) the title of oldest tree of its kind. Here are a couple of interesting accounts of the Balmville Tree: ... 016/03/22/

To my eye, the Cottonwood looks very old. Whether it dates to the seventeenth century or not, I don’t know. After seeing the tree in person and looking at lots of photos, my guess is that it is a single-trunked individual with multiple low-forking branches that grew together over time. At least part of the main trunk was hollow, and where the final cut was made is too high to see from the ground, so my opinion is not easily verifiable. Cool tree, though, and definitely worth seeing if you’re in the area.

"There is nothing in the world to equal the forest as nature made it. The finest formal forest, the most magnificent artificially grown woods, cannot compare with the grandeur of primeval woodland." Bob Marshall, Recreational Limitations to Silviculture in the Adirondacks

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Re: The Balmville Tree

Post by DwainSchroeder » Wed Feb 27, 2019 11:00 pm

It was interesting and amusing that the neighbor was able to clone the tree by simply sticking a twig in the ground. That's a very easy technique to use with willows, and I suppose willows and cottonwoods are similar.

I'm guessing that tree may actually have a multitude of offspring in the surrounding area. Cottonwood seed is so plentiful and thick in the early summer that it often fouls up heat exchangers on air conditioning units. Those tiny seed are also quick to germinate and take root. I know because I used to experiment with the seed from a giant cottonwood that grew on the farm, when I was maybe 12 years old and didn't have anything else to do in the summer.

The concrete and steel fence around the stump look good and will last a life time. But I wonder what the stump may look like in say 10 years? I don't know how you could preserve it very easily, especially with the inside already being rotted out. As a possible future solution, I saw one old historic giant stump that was simply replaced with a concrete version, and that memorial still looks pretty good. (It's a 9' diameter apple tree stump from the French Indian era, located in a park along the Maumee River in Defiance, Ohio.)

Thanks for the interesting post,
Dwain Schroeder

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