Nova Scotia

'It's a constant in our lives': Nova Scotians mourn iconic tree felled by Fiona

Amid the battered power poles and flooded homes ravaged by post-tropical storm Fiona, there was a smaller disaster that united Nova Scotians in a widespread outpouring of heartfelt sorrow.

The Stewiacke or Shubie tree was a beloved Bluenose icon

The branches of a tree are silhouetted against the sunset, with a flock of birds flying by in the background.
This tree has stood in a field near Highway 102 between Truro and Halifax for an estimated 300 years. It was blown down during post-tropical storm Fiona. (Len Wagg)

Amid the battered power poles and flooded homes ravaged by post-tropical storm Fiona, there was a smaller disaster that united Nova Scotians in a widespread outpouring of heartfelt sorrow.

"The one that signals a road trip, and welcomes you back home … is gone," wrote Amanda Dodsworth on Facebook.

"It had weathered an estimated 300 years of storms, but could not withstand this one. My heart it [sic] so sad that that tree will never welcome me home again."

The hurricane-strength winds that Fiona unleashed on the Atlantic provinces over the weekend felled the red oak that stood, alone and adored, in a field along Highway 102. Known as the Stewiacke or Shubie tree or sometimes simply "the tree," it has captivated Nova Scotians with its serene, solitary presence, seen by many as a welcoming sentinel on the commute between Truro and Halifax.

The famed red oak near Highway 102 is seen from above after being felled by post-tropical storm Fiona. (Shaun Lowe Photography)

"Every time I post the tree, people would talk about what it meant to them," said Len Wagg, a local photographer who estimated he's taken thousands of photos of the tree.

"And it was always words like, it's home. It was words like, it's my touchstone. It's words like, I know things are gonna be OK when the tree's OK."

A tree lies on the ground, its trunk split open and large branches broken off.
The tree lies in the field after being downed by Fiona. (Len Wagg)

The red oak tree was an estimated 300 years old and has been photographed thousands of times by professionals and amateurs alike. It had a sturdy trunk under a near-perfect halo of spreading branches that were as elegant silhouetted against sunrise as they were dusted in fresh snow.

Wagg said he went straight over to the field when he learned about the tree on Saturday morning and took photos of the former giant lying shattered and defeated on the soggy ground. His Facebook post has been shared nearly 4,000 times - along with photos and tributes by other photographers, all being shared with words of loving farewell.

"I LOVE that tree!" wrote Staci Cornett on Facebook. "I always felt like it symbolized bravery, strength and solitude to stand tall against the elements. It just goes to show that even the best can break."

The tree stood on private property, and the owners declined an interview with the CBC on Sunday. 

Though the field was private, Wagg said the tree had nonetheless played a part in countless lives over many years.

"People have been married underneath that tree. People have gotten engaged underneath that tree," he said. "People have had their birthdays, you know, their kids' pictures taken underneath that tree. How many hundreds of thousands of trees came out this weekend, but … that one hit hard. It's a constant in our lives that's gone down."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ruth Davenport

Producer, CBC Nova Scotia

Ruth Davenport is a producer for CBC Nova Scotia. She has been covering news in Halifax for 20 years.

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