World record tree survives another brush with death

TILLER, Ore. -- Sugar pine seeds. They're just one of many specks of life in the Umpqua National Forest.

But just a little east of Tiller, there's one seed that outgrew the rest. Not only that, it survived a chainsaw and most recently, a fire.

Chris Rush, a retired Forest Service silviculturist, says this seed was special from the start. "This seed was such that it was able to take a good hold without competition from any other vegetation."

This seed is now a mighty sugar pine, standing around 265 feet tall. "According to the records, this is the world's tallest sugar pine, and it's right here in Douglas County, accessible for all to come and visit," Rush said.

13 years ago, a $2,000 reward was put up for the person who tried to bring it down. "Somebody came here with a chainsaw and went around the perimeter of the tree," said Rush. "We were afraid the cambium was damaged because the cut did go into the tree around 6-8 inches."

The culprit was never caught.

But, with the help of Rush and her team, they placed grafting compound in its cuts and watered it throughout the entire summer of 2000.

There may be an occasional person who comes out and still waters this tree in the summertime when it's really dry.

This summer, death brushed by this world record-holder again. It found itself entrapped in the Whiskey Complex fire just 1/2 a mile from where active fires burned. "I was worried about the sugar pine, but I knew that it would be protected by the firefighters," said Rush. "It turns out that it was. You can see around the perimeter of the tree there's been some cutting of any kind of ladder fuels that could catch a flame."

The tree is estimated to be around 500 years old.

Rush says its tale of survival stands as a testament of its pivotal relationship with man as a protagonist and protector.