Bradenton, Fla. — On November 6th and 7th De Soto National Memorial’s two largest Gumbo Limbo trees were removed as a result of Hurricane Irma damage. The Champion Gumbo Limbo had also suffered years of damage due to the Ganoderma fungus that had destroyed most of the trees root system and trunk base. The hurricane damage and the location of these trees made them a tremendous risk to visitor safety. “It was like working on hallowed ground and a great honor to have worked on this project” said Tammy Kovar CEO of Biological Tree Services, the company hired for the project. “We all had a very personal connection to these trees and the decision to remove them was a hard and emotional one, but we knew it was the best one for safety.”
Cross sections from the champion tree were taken to be sent to the University of Florida for study so that possible cures can be found for the Ganoderma fungus. Hundreds of viable clippings were taken from the champion tree, and were bagged with clean soil and special root growth stimulants to promote viability of the new saplings.
On November 8th the community was invited to come out and pick up the prepared clippings to take home and plant in their own yards and community spaces. At 12:00 pm there was a long line of people, some coming from as far away as Naples and Fort Lauderdale to take pieces of the Gumbo Limbo home with them. It is estimated that over 500 limbs were given away. “While it was a difficult decision to remove these trees, what touched us the most was how the community has supported us,” stated Nathan Souder, Superintendent of De Soto. “It is easy to focus on the past and the ability of our community to respect history while looking towards the future was inspiring and encouraging.”
Many of those that came were saddened yet very grateful to have the opportunity to continue their connection to the tree they grew up with. Numerous visitors also stated they were going to share their clippings with local schools, parks, and community green spaces. Manatee County Division of Natural Resources, City of Anna Maria, and Shelby Gardens all came out and took pieces of the tree to grow at parks and gardens located around Manatee and Sarasota counties.
De Soto National Memorial personally thanks everyone involved, from the professionals involved in the removal of our beloved trees; to the community residents and agency representatives that came out. The support shown will ensure that the legacy of this great tree will continue to live in the great communities that surrounded it. De Soto National Memorial invites the community to please share their memories and photos of the trees now and as they grow on the park’s Facebook site. Instructions and suggestions from certified arborists on the care and planting of the Gumbo Limbo clippings will be located on the park’s Facebook page and web site.
De Soto National Memorial commemorates Conquistador Hernando De Soto's 1539 expedition through the Southeastern United States and tells the history of the Native American tribal societies they encountered. Learn more about the park and upcoming events at www.nps.gov/deso or follow De Soto National Memorial on Facebook at www.facebook.com/DESO1539/. To learn more about the Friends of De Soto visit www.friendsofdesoto.org.