Windsor's massive street tree dates back to 1890

Despite a backlog of street tree trimmings in Windsor, one of the city's oldest trees still towers over homes along St. Louis Avenue

Silver maple planted by city crews in nineteenth century still thriving

City forester Paul Giroux marvels at the size of one of the oldest trees in Windsor.

The booming branches of the sweeping silver maple stretch upward in every direction far above the homes along St. Louis Avenue.

Most residents on the street have no idea this mammoth tree is one of the oldest in Windsor. But even without knowing its age, neighbours like Sue McMillan say the old maple has always been a character in the east-end neighbourhood.

"Everybody who goes by walking stops and looks at it," she told CBC News. "It's really quite something."

City foresters planted the tree in 1890, making it at least 127 years old. One other tree in the city's inventory of 70,000 precedes this towering maple by 10 years, but nothing else compares in terms of its size. 

The thick trunk of the silver maple measures 183 centimetres in diameter, making it almost 575 cm all the way around. Each of its six massive branches are bigger than most other tree trunks on the street.

"It's a hog," said Paul Giroux, the city's manager of forestry and natural areas.

City forester Paul Giroux stands in awe of one of Windsor's oldest street trees on St. Louis Avenue. (CBC News)

He visited the site after CBC News poured through the city tree inventory in search of the oldest tree in the city. During his inspection, he commented extensively about the health of the tree, particularly considering that most urban trees don't make it this long.

"We know trees in their natural state can easily reach 150 years of age, but a tree in the city that has endured years of salting of the roads, sidewalks, driveways, houses built all around it?" he said gazing up with his head tilted way back. "It really is amazing this tree is in as good of shape as it is."

Bob and Sue McMillan have fond memories of the massive silver maple that has towered above St. Louis Avenue in Windsor for 126 years.

Sue and her husband, Bob McMillan, moved to St. Louis 47 years ago. They and their two children, who are now in their 40s, know the tree well. They only hope it can stick around for many more years.

"You'd hate to see it taken down," Bob said.

Mike Montagano and Erika Ouellette hope for the same. They just recently bought the house where the old maple has made its home for more than a century.

The young couple - both in their 20s - had initial concerns about the branches coming down in a powerful wind storm, but that fear wasn't enough to scare them off. The tree was actually a big reason why they bought the house.

"I like older areas for their character, so I think all big trees help with that look," Montagano said.

The maple certainly gives his new home a unique look. Below ground, the roots have pushed up the soil and grass making a corner of the yard look like pitcher's mound. The city sidewalk bends as it approaches the yard in order to go around the expansive root flare.

And there's good news for all its neighbours - new and old. This maple is in such good shape, Giroux thinks it could be around for at least another 25 years.


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