The Christmas tree that was installed at the Douglas County Courthouse in Roseburg last year will be replaced next month.

The top of the tree has died, Douglas County Commissioner Chris Boice confirmed Tuesday. The brown needles at the top of the tree had fueled speculation that the whole tree was dying, but Boice said it’s just the top that has died.

The tree, a Giant Sequoia, is under warranty from the Willamette Valley tree farm that sold it to the county and the company will replace it, Boice said. He said a new tree will be up and decorated in time for Christmas.

Boice cited an unusually hot summer as the cause of the treetop’s death. The thermometer reached 113 degrees in Roseburg during June’s heatwave.

Richard Fife, a Roseburg resident who said he has successfully planted and grown nine Giant Sequoia trees on his own property and several more around his neighborhood, speculated that the courthouse tree was not receiving enough water.

He wrote to the commissioners in June, urging them to water the tree more heavily.

Fife said he planted his Giant Sequoias from seeds taken from Grant Grove in California.

Fife said he believes the courthouse tree was damaged by drought and under-watered.

Because the sequoias’ roots don’t grow deep, they need to be deeply soaked, he said.

“It’s so sad. These are beautiful trees, and in front of the courthouse they represent what the county should represent — life,” he said.

Oregon State University Extension Horticulture Agent Steve Renquist said when a tree starts turning brown and dying back from the top down, it’s a sign that the roots have not established.

“During our really hot summer, they probably couldn’t keep up with the moisture demand,” he said.

He said a tree that size needs deep watering, down several feet.

It’s a challenge to transplant a tree that size, he said. It probably didn’t have much of a root system by the time the heatwave hit.

Unfortunately, the timing was bad. The tree probably would have done well if we’d have had more of a normal June, he said.

If next summer is hot too, he warned the same problem could happen again with another transplanted tree if it’s as large as the first.

Boice said the county watered the tree following the specifications given by the tree farm.

That was necessary in order to be covered by the warranty, he said.

The tree has its own metered watering system. The soil moisture was checked nearly every day, and the water was turned up on hot days, he said.

“We’re doing everything by the book. We followed the directions of the company that we bought it from and our professional arborist, which was necessary in order for us to have them honor the warranty,” he said.

He said his understanding is that when the company takes the existing tree back, it will cut the dead top out of it and then it will grow. The tree will go on living and serve a different purpose.

“It’ll do its thing, but it’ll have a funny-looking top on it, which isn’t ideal for our Christmas tree,” he said.

Reporter Carisa Cegavske can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213.

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Senior Reporter

Carisa Cegavske is the senior reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213. Follow her on Twitter @carisa_cegavske

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(5) comments

Mike

Personally, I think a pyramid shaped tree with a dead top would be very symbolic of Douglas County's leadership.

mynamehere

Instead of removing the tree and replacing it I assume at taxpayer expense, just cut the damaged part off the tree. Douglas County can claim they have the first "special needs" (i.e. disabled) Sequoia in the nation. We don't throw people away after an amputation, why should we throw away this tree?

garyd

it started dying the day it was cut.

S

Irony . . . that things at the top around the courthouse are dead or dying?

Mike

Maybe the tree caught a disease. There's a lot of that going around in Douglas County theses days.

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