the live oak in the Florida governor’s mansion splits through the Idalia; Casey DeSantis posts the photo on social media

On the day Hurricane Adalia hit Tallahassee, Florida’s first lady, Casey DeSantis, posted a photo of a split tree on the grounds of the governor’s mansion to her social media. Arborists and historians are interested in the fate of these live oaks.

People in Lyon County tend to be very proud of their trees and the shaded paths they provide. Stan Rosenthal, who has been a forest ranger in Lyon County for 30 years, has played a major role in creating this pride.

When it’s a Category 1 hurricane, he says, he and his wife stay put; When it gets to class 2, they leave.

“Pine trees will start to crack at the root system or break off at the first category, even if they are healthy and structurally sound,” he said. “Older water oaks and laurel oaks start to disintegrate. You start to get into Category 3, and live oaks — really strong trees, like this one, that don’t have that structural problem, and good sized branches and things start to break off.

Trees can fail for several reasons, Rosenthal says. The first is poor health. Another is strong storms, such as Idalia.

“Not every tree fell. Well, the people who fell probably had some problem with them.” “So health can be one of those things, like a tree with a rotten root system. Well, it works pretty well, but when a strong wind hits it, it becomes too much. Trees can die completely, and as they decompose, they become even more dangerous.

Like all living things, trees die, and not always for natural reasons.

“The things we do with trees, like when we do development work, or we do building work around a tree and cut down the root system,” he said. “The University of Florida has done a bunch of research on tornadoes and trees, and we know that trees in older subdivisions performed better than newer subdivisions because they didn’t have as much root damage.”

First Lady Casey DeSantis estimated the age of the fallen tree to be about 100 years old. Historian Jonathan Lammers has been studying aerial photos of the governor’s mansion to search for the tree in years past.

“There was no tree in 1941. At that time, there was the former governor’s mansion, which was demolished and rebuilt in 1956,” he said. Based on an aerial photograph from the mid-1960s, it appears that the downed tree was most likely planted when the new governor’s mansion was being built in the 1950s. And so we’re looking at a tree that’s probably about 70 years old or so.

Lammers says it takes 70 to 100 years for live oak trees to reach adulthood.

“And once they get to that size, you also look at the fact that they are small islands, biological islands in their own right,” he said. “There are communities of insects, birds and other animals that use these trees…they are actually little arcs of life. It is best to think of the urban tree canopy in this way.

Regardless of its age, the live oak tree in the Governor’s Mansion became synonymous with the home at the time of its demise. On Thursday, the union went to the governor’s mansion to view the tree but was not allowed on the grounds. Officers said the remains of the tree had already been removed.

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