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Historic Bush butternut tree damaged by weekend windstorm

Standing next to the 170-year-old historic butternut tree on the site of pioneer George Washington Bush's Tumwater farm Tuesday, arborist Ray Gleason (right) talks with farm co-owner Mark Clark about the trunk cracking that has appeared since Sunday, when the weekend storm brought a large section of the tree down.
Standing next to the 170-year-old historic butternut tree on the site of pioneer George Washington Bush's Tumwater farm Tuesday, arborist Ray Gleason (right) talks with farm co-owner Mark Clark about the trunk cracking that has appeared since Sunday, when the weekend storm brought a large section of the tree down. Staff photographer

A 170-year-old butternut tree on the site of pioneer George Washington Bush's Tumwater farm was one of the victims of last weekend’s windstorm.

On Tuesday, arborist Ray Gleason talked with farm co-owner Mark Clark about the added trunk cracking that has appeared since Sunday. after the weekend storm brought down at large section of the tree.

Earlier DNA testing indicates that the pure strain tree is likely the oldest living butternut in the United States — and possibly anywhere, Gleason said. A victim of poor pruning about 50 years ago, it has been carefully nurtured and stabilized by Gleason and others concerned with its long-term well being.

Likening the recent damage to the structural loss a tin can would experience from receiving a large dent to its side, Gleason said he plans to assemble a crew as soon possible to begin removing the load the massive downed limbs are placing on the main trunk.

Planted in 1845 by Bush, the more-than-50-ton tree has been battling decay for decades and has seen an ongoing army of volunteers work to preserve it. It's history is what has drawn Gleason to it particularly.

"The fact that both George Washington Bush and his wife, Isabella, were equal owners of the farm was amazing enough, given the time period," Gleason said.

He also will continue to monitor the tree's condition and will continue to assist Bush Prairie Farm owners Mark and Kathleen Clark as they work to keep the remaining section of the tree alive.

The Clarks purchased the farm in 2009, and it is now a part of the Community Supported Farm (CSA) system.

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