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UW-Madison’s historic Goff larch lives on

April 19, 2007

It turns out that the heavy snow of April 11 did not destroy the University of Wisconsin–Madison's Goff larch—it simply gave the historic tree a new shape.

The 100-year-old tree in the university's Allen Centennial Garden was presumed to be a total loss after an accumulation of snow in its branches caused its trunk to break.

But a closer inspection reveals that what's left is well worth saving, says Dennis Stimart, chair of the UW–Madison Department of Horticulture and director of the Allen Centennial Gardens, where the tree is located.

"It still has considerable landscape value," Stimart says. "The point where it broke off is above where the basal tree branches originate. The branches are quite extensive and run quite a few feet beyond the trunk, and they extend 6 feet high in some places.

"It's kind of a display of the cycle of life, and it's part of the history of the garden. We'd like to keep it as long as we can. The remainder might be there for five years, or 10 – who knows? It still fits in very nicely into its surroundings."

There may also be a second life for parts of the tree that didn't survive. The university's tree service contractor will remove the felled parts of the tree's trunk in the next few days. That wood will be turned over to Bjorn Karlsson, an associate research in the horticulture department who also runs Urban Forest Furniture, a small business that salvages dying historic trees for reuse as custom furniture projects.

Karlsson will mill the trunk into rough lumber and dry it, then make an assessment of possible uses for the wood. It's a role he's played before. He used wood from trees on several parts of campus to create paneling and benches for the restoration of the university's historic Red Gym.

The tree was transplanted as a sapling from Door County by E.S. Goff, the university's first professor of horticulture.

Tags: history