One of two of Lakewood's remaining Moses Cleveland trees is at the end of its long life | The City of Lakewood, Ohio

One of two of Lakewood’s remaining Moses Cleveland trees is at the end of its long life

February 14, 2018

Moses Cleveland Tree Removal – 1270 Summit Avenue:

If this tree could talk…

The Summit Avenue Moses Cleveland Tree – it is a White Oak (Quercus alba) – has advancing trunk decay and canopy dieback that has greatly increased the past two years as we have continued to monitor and measure this tree. We have reached the point to where no safe mitigation exists to make/keep the tree safe long term due to the severity of decay and other defects present.

Brief background of this historic tree:

The current Diameter at Breast Height measurement (DBH) is 75 inches across. The last “big tree” inventory done in Lakewood by ODNR was in 2012 as part of their on-going large historic tree assessments throughout the State of Ohio and they listed a DBH of 74 inches at that time. The last “official” height measured was 90 feet in 1994 with a 90 foot canopy spread and a 70-inch DBH also from 1994, when the tree was assessed in full by the city and by several respected arborists/tree service companies shortly after two large sections broke off the tree that year (one which first exposed the large cavity that you see today) as the city weighted options of removal or preservation efforts.

It was determined at that time that, in short, the tree was collapsing under its own weight that it could no longer support itself and the city decided to undertake certain preservation measures to make the tree safer and to mitigate its defects and structural weak points to help preserve its overall health and structure of the tree. A crown reduction and selective limb removal  was performed in 1994 that reduced the height to about 75 feet and canopy spread to approximately 70 feet. Also at that time, three cables were installed (one since removed to due decay present that no longer could support one of the cable anchors – which broke away in 2016) to help support some of the outer limbs to help prevent them from breaking away from the tree under its own weight.  This work was done by Davey Tree at that time.

Another pruning effort was done in 2007 by our city tree crew, after a large limb broke away that year and landed in the street, to selectively remove three more larger limbs to further reduce the weight and wind resistance of the tree. No pruning of this tree has been done since that time as the pruning cuts/wounds from that last round of pruning in 2007 have failed to properly close to help wall off decay – the tree no longer has the health and vigor to be able to properly close any pruning cuts.

This tree was first officially recognized in the year 1946 – when the Western Reserve Historical Society certified 216 trees in Cuyahoga County as Moses Cleaveland (original spelling) Trees – meaning that they all had to be at least 150 years old at that time and well established at the time that Moses Cleaveland and his party landed at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River on 22 July 1796.

Each tree was of such an age as to have been part of the area’s forests at the time of the landing. The Cleveland Sesquicentennial Commission appointed the Committee on Moses Cleaveland Trees, whose objective was the discovery and labeling of 150 native trees over the age of 150 years growing in the county.  It was estimated in 1946 that the 1270 Summit Avenue tree was 250 years old, which would make it over 320 years old today.

Each tree was given a 5″ x 10″ aluminum label which read: “This is a Moses Cleaveland Tree. It was standing here as part of the original forest when Moses Cleaveland landed at the Mouth of the Cuyahoga River, July 22, 1796. Let us preserve it as a living memorial to the first settlers of the Western Reserve.” That original 1946 label is still on this tree.

Only two Moses Cleaveland trees remain in Lakewood from the original eight identified in 1946, this one on Summit Ave and the large Swamp White Oak in front of Roosevelt Elementary School on Athens Avenue. Unfortunately,  the aluminum label has gone missing from this tree.

Current conditions and recent measurements/observations:

  • As part of the 1994 tree assessment, the current massive cavity left behind from the large section of tree that broke away that year was measured to a depth of 2-feet, 7-inches and 2-feet 5-inches wide.
  • Today, that same cavity is 6-feet deep (nearly as wide as the entire tree trunk) and over 3-feet wide. There is a lot of punky and rotten wood deep into the tree that when probed breaks away and/or you can sink the probe into the remaining wood several inches.
  • There is heartwood rot deep within the trunk that can easily be probed through in any direction and you can look down/probe down nearly 3 feet below what you can view from standing on the ground.
  • That same cavity has expanded deeper with more corresponding internal decay at a more rapid rate the past four years as follows:
    • 2014 – 4’ 4”
    • 2015 – 4’8”
    • 2016 – 5’4”
    • 2017 – 6’ deep and 38” at its widest point on December 8, 2017
  • 20% overall canopy dieback observed within the past two years.
  • Live crown ratio in 1994 was 98%
    • 2015 it was approx. 95% (relatively little deadwood)
    • 2016 it was approx. 85%
    • 2017 it was approx. 75%
  • Presently, the trunk has, besides a massive cavity, a lot of punky and rotten wood that when probed breaks away or can be easily penetrated with a probe.
  • There are two small cavities at the base of the trunk and parts of the root flare at the soil have decay points.
  • Back in the day concrete was poured in/pushed into decay points in the base of the tree – this probably occurred in the 1950s or 60’s as it was a common practice back then with really old trees that has since been proven to have no beneficial effect.
  • One of the root flare decay points can be probed up to two feet into the base of the tree in which you do hit some of the original cement poured into a cavity

An effort will be made to preserve a section of the tree trunk and use the tree rings to designate important dates/timelines of the history of the City of Lakewood.

Of course, there is a chance that much of the trunk may be hollow in this tree. If we can’t make use of this trunk we would have to do a project like this some another time with a different tree.