Part one: Tub Springs Sugar Pine
As part of the 2012 Oregon Heritage Tree Statewide Dedication festivities, we’re blog-posting on the four honorees. Up first, an amazingly old and giant tree.
High in Oregon’s southern mountains near what we now call Ashland—long before Oregon Country and the Applegate Trail—pinecones scattered by squirrels and birds sprouted into sugar pine saplings. A century passed, trees grew, and in the 1860s Oregon settlers filled barrels and watered livestock at Tub Springs below the southern Applegate. A short distance from the spring’s crystal clear water, a sugar pine was nearing its century mark. Over the next 150 years, the Tub Springs Sugar Pine, nourished by an unlimited water supply, reached a formidable size.
Several years ago, the Oregon Heritage Tree Program was contacted by Oregon Department of Forestry Ranger Steve Bridges. Bridges was in the process of cleaning up a stand of sugar pines, incense cedars and other native trees near Tub Springs. He suspected an immense tree nearby may have been a silent observer of Oregon history. Bridges felt the tree was the perfect example of how heritage trees are connected to historic events, people and cultures.
In 2011 members of the Oregon Heritage Tree Committee visited Tub Springs. The committee was impressed by the site itself, since much work had been performed to clear the area around the springs for visitors. Heritage trees must meet certain criteria in order to be inducted into the program, including accessibility. The Tub Springs State Wayside, its historic sugar pine, and a portion of the Applegate Trail are all located in the middle of the Cascade Siskiyou National Monument. By actually visiting the site, committee members ensured that the sugar pine met all program factors before it was inducted into the Class of 2012. All trees in the program undergo an onsite inspection as part of the application process.
The Tub Springs Sugar Pine Heritage Tree is the largest tree in the park and most likely the oldest. Due to fire suppression and other environmental conditions including the encroachment of prolific species such as white firs, extensive logging, and disease common to white pine, old growth sugar pine is a rarity within a mixed conifer forest. Its trunk circumference spans 226.8 inches and tree height is 180 feet. Visitors standing next to the Tub Springs Sugar Pine are dwarfed by its massive size.