Landmark madrona tree dying in Port Angeles

PORT ANGELES — One of the largest and oldest madrona trees in Washington is slowing dying, despite attempts to save it.

A tree service crew trimmed dead limbs this week from the tree on property owned by Virginia Serr, 86, who bought it as a memorial to her husband Ted Serr, who died in 1997.

“I want to at least give it a chance to regenerate,” Serr said.

The tree was 85 feet tall with a crown that spanned 100 feet when it was last measured in 2007. It’s believed to have been growing since before the first European settlers arrived on the Olympic Peninsula, more than 300 years ago, the Peninsula Daily News reported Friday.

Port Angeles arborist James Causton, who has been monitoring the tree since 1990, says it’s past saving.

“It’s dead already; it just doesn’t know about it yet,” Causton said.

It may take years, but the tree is dying from a root fungus, excessive water and a compacted root system, Causton said.

In 2007, a group of tree specialists from around the Pacific Northwest worked to save the tree, injecting organic microbes to attack the fungi and excavating the decayed roots. That was unsuccessful. The only way the fungus could be eradicated is to dry out the root system, Causton said.

“Everything that could have been done to help that tree has been done,” he said.

The city Public Works Department is monitoring the tree’s stability.

City officials estimate the tree has at least three to five years remaining before it becomes a danger to those who drive and walk under it.

Serr had offered the property to the city for a pocket park. The city declined, but Serr wanted to keep the tree accessible to the public and put up a sign calling it Ted’s Tree Park.

Her husband passed the tree on the way to his office each day. He was afraid the tree might be cut down to make way for construction, she said.

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