- Associated Press - Sunday, October 2, 2016

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A massive white oak tree brought down by a summer thunderstorm stood tall for close to 200 years before the campus of the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan began growing up around it.

The felled tree is likely between 350 and 400 years old. Every person to ever visit the campus of what’s now Michigan State University could have walked by the massive tree, said Frank Telewski, a plant biology professor at MSU.

“It’s amazing when you think about it,” he said.

A small portion of the centuries-old tree remains between the MSU Museum and Linton Hall in the West Circle area of campus. It previously shaded a stone water fountain dedicated by the class of 1900, which served both humans and the horses they rode to campus. Before that, the land around what is now West Circle was occupied by local Native American tribes, Telewski said.

The majority of the tree was harvested by MSU grounds staff shortly after the July 8 storm.

Much of the center of the tree was rotted out when it fell over, Telewski said. He attributed the damage to workers who prepared the land in the 1850s. Those workers cut the tops of existing trees and placed metal caps on them, which Telewski said he noticed upon inspecting the toppled tree.

Telewski had to go 15 feet up from the base of the tree to find a complete section in order to count the tree rings. Counting 347 rings, Telewski said the tree is significantly older because it likely spent its first few decades fighting for sunlight in the surrounding forest. While groundskeepers cleared many of those trees to set up the college, this tree was likely saved because it was spindly, Telewski said.

Officials haven’t decided what to do with the tree’s remains, said Dan Brown, a coordinator in the Department of Forestry. The massive trunk was cut into sections, which were placed in a lot behind the T.B. Simon Power Plant. It’ll likely be turned over to the MSU Shadows program, which turns upended campus trees into wood products such as cutting boards and furniture. That isn’t expected to happen until next spring, Brown said.

“The main bulk of the tree was recovered,” Brown said. “Some limbs were also recovered that we hope to turn into (drink) coasters.”

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Information from: Lansing State Journal, http://www.lansingstatejournal.com

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