Turning Over New Leaves

Media Contact
Published on July 22, 2008
Author: Mark Sommer – NEWS STAFF REPORTER
The Buffalo News Inc.

One of Buffalo’s two oldest trees was given an excellent medical prognosis after a house call Monday to treat a non-life-threatening disease.
The sycamore tree at 404 Franklin St., between Virginia and Edwards streets in Allentown, received a fungicide treatment from a tree service company to combat Sycamore Anthracnose, an infection that resulted in an early loss of leaves this spring.

“It’s truly a phenomenon in the tree world,” said Jeremy Sayers, president of the Tree Doctor in Clarence and a certified arborist. “The tree has had hundreds of years of curve balls thrown at it and hit every one out of the park.”

This spring, the tree’s leaves had fallen to the ground shortly after appearing, a common problem for sycamores in the kind of wet and warm spring Buffalo experienced, he said. The tree disease can, over several years, weaken a tree by depleting stored energy. Although the tree may well have healed itself anyway, Sayers said, the fungicide treatment was meant to protect it from defoliation during the next three years.

Sayers said the two-hour macro-infusion treatment sent a mixture of fungicide and water, pumped at low pressure, through a plastic tube wrapped around the tree’s 75-inch diameter into the tree’s circulatory system. The process allowed 35 gallons of fluid to be absorbed and distributed through the entire tree.

The 50-foot-tall sycamore, with branches that stretch across the street, is believed to be Buffalo’s second most ancient tree. Possibly the oldest, an oak in Delaware Park, was damaged during the October 2006 storm but is improving and is expected to survive, Sayers said.

A plaque erected in 1960 indicates the tree would today be about 300 years old. Sayers said he believes the company that put up the plaque found historical documentation to back up the tree’s age.

In general, Sayers said, formulas used to determine the age of trees in a wooded setting are far less reliable for city trees because of environmental factors that typically slow their growth. Those factors include construction damage, salt sprays, air pollution, lack of appropriate moisture and limited space for roots to grow.

“It is almost unheard of for a tree along a city street to live to be [this old]. The chances of that happening are astronomically small,” Sayers said. “Regardless of whether the tree is 200 or 300 years old, there are not going to be too many trees in the country that have survived that long in an urban setting.”

Sycamores do best when they have a constant year-round source of water, which could be the key to this tree’s success: An aquifer runs directly below it.