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Finding Minnesota: Oronoco’s Moose Tree

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(credit: CBS) Angela Davis
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ORONOCO, Minn. (WCCO) — With the leaves starting to change colors, trees are more likely to catch your attention these days.

There are some real beauties out there right now. This week in Finding Minnesota, we went to see one of the oldest trees in the state. It’s just outside of Rochester, in the city of Oronoco.

And it’s unique for several reasons, not just its size and age.

It is a majestic sight.

An old basswood tree, with a wide trunk, and sprawling branches.

It’s been growing here in Oronoco for nearly 160 years and is the centerpiece of a city park.

But, there’s a problem.

“Right here is proof positive that the tree has a lot of decay in it and this would be a weak wall,” said Ed Hayes.

Hayes is a certified arborist and entomologist and the owner of Hayes Tree in Rochester.

Last spring, the city of Ornoco brought in a team of arborists to examine the tree to make sure it was structurally sound.

They already knew it was special. After all, how often do you see a tree with branches that resemble a moose head?

Yes, this tree looks like a moose. And not just in one spot but, in three.

“The concept is called adaptive growth. That is how the tree develops these features that makes it look like a moose,” Hayes said. “This is supporting wood added below this structure.”

He explained that as the tree grows, it adds wood to weak areas.

Over time, three of those places took on a familiar, almost cartoon-ish shape.

Jon Marx runs Arborists of Rochester. He and his business partner Adam Hoehne have also spent time examining this tree.

“It is very clear why they call it the Moose tree. All the moose heads. It’s just a big old tree with moose heads, just a remarkable tree. Something that we really want to try to save,” Marx said.

After examining the old basswood tree, this team of arborists went to work.

First, they trimmed and cabled the crown, to stablize it — keep it from swaying in a storm. And they did it at no cost to the city of Oronoco. They donated their time and labor.

“Everybody is strapped for money and the least we could do is help the city out. It would be a shame a take a chainsaw to that tree and take it down. It’s 160 years old,” Adam Hoehne said.

Another way the arborists are helping to preserve the tree is on the ground. They’ve put mulch all around the base to preserve the root system.

Plans are also in the works to build a fence around it.

With the right care, this tree could live long enough for yet another generation to enjoy it.

The moose tree is a tourist attraction in Olmsted County. Some even say it has “healing” powers.

People visiting the Mayo Clinic in nearby Rochester often come by and sit for a while.

The manager of Oronoco Park wrote a poem about the Moose Tree.

If you’d like to check it out, just click here.

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