Death of ‘beloved’ Italian stone pine tree mourned by community

Brian Bi/Staff

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Elmwood community members mourn the death of a large Italian stone pine tree on the corner of Cherry and Russell streets that will need to be removed by early November.

Owners of the tree Delilah Raybee and Adam and Solomon Gutride released a letter to inform the neighborhood of the tree’s history and impending removal. The letter states that the tree was approximately 113 years old and that it will be removed for the safety of others.

“There used to be a streetcar line on Russell Street to take guests to the (Claremont) hotel,” the letter said. “It’s likely that everyone who ever rode that streetcar, and everyone living who ever walked down Russell Street, has seen our Stone Pine.”

According to the owners’ letter, there are many “theories” on why the tree died. The letter states that the “beloved” pine’s death may be explained by changes to the water table due to drought, or bark beetle or other insect infestations. Loneliness after the removal of its partner stone pine may also have contributed to its demise.

Cathleen Quandt, a neighbor across the street from the tree, said she is very “sad” about the death of the stone pine. She said the tree was one reason she and her husband chose to move into their current house. Quandt explained that the tree holds “thousands of happy memories” and that her husband used to climb this tree and eat the pine nuts when he was a little boy.

Neighbors including Quandt have alleged that, rather than dying of natural causes, the tree succumbed to its fate because of the installment of a retainer fence by its owners. Quandt claimed that these remodeling efforts might have led to the tree’s death by cutting through its roots.

“Its lifespan was unfortunately cut short,” Quandt said.

The community held a small candlelight ceremony to say its goodbyes to the pine Nov. 1. Alongside the letter, the owners hung up poster boards for the community to share its memories, thoughts and goodbyes.

Many community members expressed their sadness by writing notes about how much this “majestic” tree will be missed and about the experiences they have had with it. Accompanying the notes were multiple pictures of the pine that people have taken over the years.

One note said, “We will miss this beautiful tree. It is iconic in the Elmwood neighborhood, but I accept that this is the circle of life. It has served us all well.” Another note said, “In the late 70’s there was a swing off one of the larger branches. We had many exhilarating rides!”

Alfred Twu, environmental advocate and community leader, said that over the last few years the sequoias, redwoods and other giant trees have all been dying. Twu also said the city has been discussing removing traffic circle trees.

“Climate change has had a massive impact on trees. Animals can at least forage for food, but a plant can’t. If a tree is a hazard then it needs to be removed,” Twu said. “Hopefully, a new one gets planted.”

Contact Stanley von Ehrenstein-Smith [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @von_ehrenstein.