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Giant mausoleum oak to be removed week of July 12

STANFORD -- The end is near for the giant oak tree next to the Stanford Family Mausoleum. Originally slated for removal in March or April, the tree, one of Stanford's largest and most spectacular oaks, finally will be cut down during the week of July 12.

Grounds Manager Herb Fong delayed removal because some starlings - members of the blackbird family - set up nests in the dying tree in early spring.

Bird expert and President Emeritus Donald Kennedy checked out rumors that birds had moved in, and provided the identification.

Kennedy said that the starling is a "pest species" imported from England that competes against native birds for tree hole nesting space. Starlings usually win the competition.

Importing the starling to North America probably ranks as the most significant "textbook example of the dangers of exotic introduction," he said.

The tree's branches now are starting to break apart, and it must be removed, Fong said.

Instead of being reduced to firewood, parts of the tree are going to be saved for use as souvenirs and furniture, he said.

The heritage tree, estimated to be 300 years old, has been in steady decline for about seven years. Bacterial organisms have infected the coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia) with diplodia, a disease that causes branches to die, and cryptocline, which kills individual leaves. The tree is 70 feet tall, with a branch spread of 120 feet.

Legend has it that the tree was a favorite of Leland Stanford Jr., but no documentation can be found to verify that.

Leland and Jane Stanford may have considered the grand oak when they picked the location for their granite and marble mausoleum.

In early March, the Stanford Historical Society and President Gerhard Casper paid tribute to the dying oak during Founders' Day ceremonies.



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