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Buffalo's 'oldest tree' to get treated for chronic fungal disease

The giant American sycamore marked the ground at 404 Franklin St. before Buffalo did.

The estimated 300-year-old tree was there when the city was burned by the British during the War of 1812. It survived the Blizzard of '77 and the "October Surprise" storm.

But residents in the neighborhood grew alarmed in the spring. Limbs on the tree had leafed out, but quickly died.

They knew something was wrong.

This plaque adorns the American sycamore at 404 Franklin St. (T.J. Pignataro/Buffalo News)

It was anthracnose, a chronic fungus that often afflicts sycamores.

Now, Buffalo city officials are trying to make sure the tree survives 300 more years.

They have enlisted one of the nation's top tree treatment agencies in fighting the Sycamore tree's disease.

"To me, it's an absolute necessity to protect a tree of this type," said Rob Gorden, director of urban forestry for Arborjet, a Boston, Mass.-area company that specializes in developing lifesaving formulas for trees.

Gorden was joined by Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown, city forestry officials and others Tuesday morning at the tree to announce that injection treatments will begin next month to protect what's believed ― at a 75-inch breast height diameter ― to be Buffalo's oldest tree.

"It would not be right not to protect the oldest known tree in Buffalo," Brown said.

Officials said the tree was treated for a similar fungal infection in the mid-2000s.

Experts described anthracnose as a more chronic-type condition affecting trees that can flare up, especially in wet spring seasons following mild winters.

"It's like treating any other chronic disease in a person," said Andrew R. Rabb, the city's deputy commissioner for parks and recreation. "Think of it as a chronic condition you have to manage."

Officials pointed out that catching the disease early and treating it is the best course of action.

Without treatments, additional stresses on the tree could push it into "a downward spiral," they said.

Arborjet, SiteOne Landscape Supply of Cheektowaga and Draves Tree Service of Darien Center are teaming up to provide a pair of treatments for free.

The treatments are administered by injecting a patented Arborjet solution through a 1-1/2 inch needle near the base of the tree.

The chemicals, which are transported by the vascular tissues throughout the tree, are designed to attack the disease and build the tree's defenses against it.

"It prepares the tree to defend itself," Gorden said.

The first treatment is scheduled in September. The tree will get a second dose in the spring.

Then, for maintenance, the tree will get annual treatments, officials said.

Sycamore trees can live to ages upwards of 600 to 700 years.

"We want to see this tree here long after we are all well gone from this planet," Brown said. "We want to see the American sycamore right here."


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