Superstorm Sandy may not have hit Baltimore as hard as weather forecasters had warned, but it did claim one of the city's oldest trees, an impressive Osage orange in Druid Hill Park that's been estimated to be nearly four centuries old.
As reported Tuesday morning by my Baltimore Sun colleague Steve Kilar, (a "scoop" wrongly attributed to the Baltimore Brew when I first posted this - sorry, Steve!) the tree fell across Greenspring Avenue on Monday as winds and rain lashed the region.
The Osage orange that fell was not the city's champion of the species, which still stands tall not far away at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, but this one had plenty of fans as well.
Though native to the Midwest and Southeast, osage orange has been widely planted across the country since the early 1800s. The tree's common name derives from a Native American tribe that made bows from its wood, among other uses.
According to a 2002 City Paper feature about the tree, planners of Druid Hill Park in 1860 were so impressed by its size and appearance even then that they decided to bend the road around the tree rather than cut it down.
Anne Draddy, co-author of a history of Druid Hill Park, called the loss "heartbreaking." She went on in an email that "it was one of those great old trees that is a big loss for a city in need of reduced temperatures, reduce flooding, oxygen, carbon absorption, majestic beauty, increase of habitat for birds and small animals on and on."
City forestry workers cleared the tree from the road, but city arborist Erik M. Dihle directed his staff to leave the rest for now and vowed to come up with a fitting way to honor this distinctive specimen.
"We're going to come up with folks and a method to preserve slabs of this incredible tree (Coffee Tables! Memorial 'Cookies')," he wrote in an email Tuesday night. (For more on the tree species, go here.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun