MADISON, Wis. — The oldest tree on the University of Wisconsin's Madison campus, beloved by some of its youngest students, is coming down.
The 300-year-old bur oak is known as "The President's Tree" because it stands on Observatory Hill next to the former home of university presidents, which is now the La Follette School of Public Affairs.
UW-Madison had hoped to keep the tree standing on campus as long as possible, Daniel Einstein, the university's historic and cultural resources manager, told the Wisconsin State Journal (http://bit.ly/1CbN2ks ). But the recent drought and harsh winter caused the hollow old oak to decline rapidly, he said.
The exact age of the tree or how much of the wood can be salvaged cannot be determined until it comes down, Einstein said.
The tree is so big that it recently took 20 preschoolers holding hands to circle it. The group of 4-year-olds, members of classroom at the UW Preschool Lab, had adopted the oak that's located in the backyard of their classroom.
After accepting that nature had run its course and the tree has to be removed, the children began focusing on giving it a proper send-off.
The preschoolers hugged the tree, thanked it and wrote a special song. The tree isn't far from some burial grounds, and in accordance with Native American tradition, the children also hung pouches with sage and handwritten wishes.
"This tree, more so than just about every other tree on campus, represents the landscape here prior to European American settlement," Einstein said. "It was here well before the observatory, well before the president's house, well before there was even the idea there would be a thing called the University of Wisconsin."