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(Photo courtesy: SD Botanic Garden)

Oldest Tree in San Diego Botanic Garden Now Becoming a New Attraction

Encinitas CA— When the oldest tree in the Garden – a 100 foot Eucalyptus cladocalyx planted 100 years ago in 1918 – had to be euthanized last year because it was leaning dangerously posing a threat to visitors, a local sculptor stepped up to show us that there is indeed life after death for one of our beloved, iconic trees.

Artist Erwin Young “Mitch” Mitchell IV began preparing this 30-foot Eucalyptus stump into a stylized version of a Baobab Tree several weeks ago. He’s been steadily working on this project and is scheduled to be completed by the week of May 21st (next week).

Guests are invited to come and see Mitchell at work during regular business hours from 9 am – 5 pm. Paid Garden admission or membership is required for entrance to the Garden in order to watch Mitchell at work.

“We are thrilled to be able to repurpose one of the oldest trees in our Garden into a brand new visitor experience right in the heart of our Garden,” said Duval. “As a vibrant part of the San Diego community, we are also pleased to be able to support a talented local artist, such as Mitch, to bring this vision to life.”

Although the Eucalyptus is a native of Australia, for many years it has towered over plants in the Madagascar Garden. The Baobab is the iconic tree of Madagascar – a fitting replacement for one of the Garden’s oldest, and tallest trees.

Mitch recently completed the “Hodgee Monster” at Lake Hodges, also sculpted from a deceased Eucalyptus tree. Ironically Lake Hodges, the scenic San Diego reservoir in Escondido, was completed 100 years ago in 1918.

“The Garden is a wonderful place, not only to visit, but to create such a great endeavor there is fantastic – I appreciate the opportunity,” said Mitchell. “It is the first time I have ever changed a tree into another tree. I hope I do the Baobab justice.”

This project, originated with and funded by volunteers of San Diego Botanic Garden, honors Horticulturalist Bill Teague, who was instrumental in assisting in the development of many garden areas that guests enjoy today when visiting the Garden.

“Bill was a beloved part of San Diego Botanic Garden who helped it become the beloved outdoor experience enjoyed by so many in our community,” said Duval. “I can’t think of a more fitting person to honor with this sculpture.”

This year at the Garden, several other species of trees will be reaching the end of their life spans, including rare Torrey Pines towering above our Tropical Rainforest, and Hollywood Junipers lining our Walled Garden, among others. These trees will need to be removed for the safety of our guests, as well as to make room for new growth, just as it happens in nature.

For this purpose, the Garden has set up a Tree Replacement Fund that community members, visitors, and Garden friends/donors/members are welcome to donate to. Anyone interested in donating to our Tree Replacement Fund can contact Carolyn Zollars, Director of Development, at czollars@sdbgarden.org or 760/436-3036 x216 for more information and to contribute.