LSU on Monday removed the famous Steele Burden Live Oak that had been struck by lightning in May 2010. The tree had died.
“We have clones and seedlings off the tree that will be planted around campus,” Fred Fellner, assistant director of LSU Landscape Services, said in an interview Monday.
Despite repeated efforts, the LSU Office of Facility Services was unable to save the tree with low-hanging limbs that had long shaded soccer players and others near the natatorium near Nicholson Drive.
The tree was planted about 80 years ago by Steele Burden, the landscaper for the LSU campus from 1932 through 1970 who also planted many of the oak trees on campus and throughout Baton Rouge, including City Park.
LSU’s live oak trees, which are featured in the school’s alma mater, have been valued at $50 million, according to an LSU Foundation fact sheet.
“We did everything we could to save it, but the intensity of this lightning strike was too much for the tree to recover from,” said Fellner.
“It had several limbs that made contact with the ground, which acted as pathways for the lightning discharge,” Fellner said in a news release.
The affected branches were immediately removed after the tree was hit by lightning, according to an LSU news release. Facility Services treated the bark for opportunistic beetles that prey on weakened trees and treated the soil around the oak with a beneficial micronutrient solution to aid recovery. A temporary irrigation system was installed to augment the appropriate hydration levels during summer, the news release stated.
“This is a component of the natural cycle of vegetative management that we at Facility Services are engaged in,” Fellner said in the release. “On average, we plant approximately 50-100 new trees across campus each year. Unfortunately, each year, some trees have to be taken down due to disease or damage.”
Saplings were grown from acorns off the tree and Facility Services has contracted with a nursery to clone genetically identical saplings from cuttings taken from limbs of the Steele Burden oak, according to the LSU news release. Salvaged pieces of wood are also being preserved for future use.
LSU’s campus is home to more than 1,200 live oak trees, according to the release.