Saving a 150-year-old tree

This story happened in Quebec, but it’s a story that could have happened anywhere with trees. Take one 150-year-old sugar maple tree. Apply wind; lots of wind. Aaaand… oops!

Miraculously, this tree-sized branch missed the car, landed on a fence but didn’t crush it, even the birdhouse made it through the branches unscathed.

However, the tree itself was seriously compromised, with one main branch out of three gone, leaving a trunk now open to the elements. One more big wind, and the branch to the left would fall on the garage; the branch on the right would head straight for the living room of our cottage.

What to do? Well, in our case, the first thing to do was to call our tree guy, Tarzan. You read that right (especially if you read it with a French accent). Tarzan knows trees.

At first, he gave us two prices. The first was to turn the fallen branch into firewood, and haul away the brush. The second price was to cut down the tree.

What is a 150-year-old tree? It’s something that has been around for longer than Canada has been a country. Let’s say it was actually planted 150 years ago, in 1859. According to Wikipedia, that was the year Dickens published A Tale of Two Cities. Big Ben’s chimes rang out in London for the first time. Arthur Conan Doyle and Georges Seurat were born. The very first oil well in the United States was drilled. That’s a lot of history.

We asked for a third alternative, to buy a few more years for this wounded but otherwise healthy tree. That’s why Tarzan will be coming back next week to try to stabilize the two remaining branches. He’ll insert two threaded metal rods, joined between the branches by a turnbuckle.

It’s an imperfect solution for a less-than-ideal situation. But if it’s good enough for the Maple Leaf Forever tree, it’s good enough for me.


  1. It would be a shame to cut down such a majestic old tree. I am glad it is going to be stabilized so it will be around for a little longer.

  2. Helen, we just went through the same thing with a sugar maple at our home in Owen Sound. One third of it fell on the neighbours, luckily between the two houses. It crushed their metal garden shed, but luckily there was not further damage. It is very expensive to get these cut up isn't it! Our tree guy, assures us that the rest of the tree is sound. He says that it was two trees, growing so close together, that they fused as one, and the other is fine. We hope so, it is a majestic sight.

  3. These types of decisions are so difficult.

    I bet your choice was an expensive one, but I would have done the same.

    Here's hoping your tree has many more glorious years ahead.

  4. Be sure to have Tarzan put two big strong metal plates against the trunk on either end of the metal rod next to the trunk. Our tree guy neglected to do that and the rod ripped through the wood and we lost the tree.

    Good Luck! Cynthia in California

  5. Old trees are almost magical. I hope your efforts buy you time with this one. I'd be so sad to lose it if I were you.

  6. Helen,
    Your caring approach to helping along this venerable tree is commendable!
    And….you've indicated use of a 'turnbuckle' – one of my all-time favorite hardware items. Love the sound of it. Could say it over and over all evening long:
    Turnbuckle…turnbuckle….turnbuckle… well, you get the idea! The thing is, I've wondered if most people know about, let alone appreciate, this simple yet highly useful object. They came in handy sometimes in mixed-media sculptures. Sorry to go and on. (You've also got me worked up about checking out Wikipedia, and I'm not a fan.)

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