California may be known for its towering redwoods, but Florida has its lofty cypress trees. Big Tree Park, near Longwood, is home to The Senator, likely the oldest (3500 years) and tallest (116 feet) cypress tree in the United States. It used to be even taller. In the mid-1920’s hurricanes crisscrossed the state much the same as they did in 2004-2005. The worst came in 1926, but one blew across Central Florida in November 1925 and sheared the top off of the then-165-foot-tall Senator. It’s not the only big cypress here. 89-foot-tall, 2000-year-old Lady Liberty is just a few more steps down the boardwalk trail from the Senator. Big Tree—a Seminole County park can be found just east of County Road 427 on General Hutchinson Parkway, just north of Longwood. Rollins College Environmental History professor (and Visiting Small Town Florida blog contributor) Leslie Poole graciously served as my tour guide when I visited the park to shoot the photograph below.
Post Script—Interesting Big Tree trivia, compliments of Leslie Poole from her dissertation notes: At its fifth annual convention in 1930, the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs, composed of many local groups across the state, adopted a resolution to fund protective iron fencing around the base of a bald cypress tree “dating from 2800 to 5000 years” in Seminole County “to prevent the public from carving its initials upon it, and otherwise defacing it.” The tree, now estimated at an age of 3,500 years would come to be known as “The Senator” and currently is the centerpiece of Big Tree Park in Longwood. They were following the national impulse for preservation of large trees that had occurred earlier in California battles to preserve redwood trees and, notably, the sequoia grove near Yosemite that featured the General Sherman Tree, “the largest of all living things,” notes historian Alfred Runte. California had its General—Florida had its Senator.