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Goddard hopes to save beloved tree

Employees atNASA'sGoddard Space Flight Center, a group accustomed to looking skyward, have been forced to focus a bit more on the ground after last month's powerful storm ripped a large, low branch from an iconic tree on the Greenbelt campus.

The nearly 200-year-old willow oak, known to Goddard workers as the "Tree of Life," had been spared from destruction three years ago when architects decided to make it a prominent landscaping feature of the new Exploration Sciences Building.

Pictures taken after the derecho June 29 show the tree torn open, with the trunk split nearly to the roots and the massive bough lying on the ground.

Goddard, which ordinarily posts photographs from space on Twitter, used the social networking site after the storm to share pictures of the damaged tree.

An arborist who examined the damage believes the tree can be saved, according to a spokesman for the agency. Cables will be used to support remaining limbs, and the exposed portion of the tree will be treated several times a year.

Rob Gutro, a Goddard spokesman and meteorologist, said that when architects designed the building and an adjacent parking lot, they intentionally incorporated the "Tree of Life" into the plan for the site. The facility, which opened in 2009, is the largest green building on the Greenbelt campus.

"They wanted to save that tree," Gutro said. "People are aware that it is a special tree."

The storm walloped the state with damaging winds that felled trees and utility poles, bent metal sign posts and knocked out power to millions of customers in the Mid-Atlantic.

john.fritze@baltsun.com

twitter.com/jfritze

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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