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Huge Zebulon oak tree, 400 years old, topples without warning

Posted May 27, 2013

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— An enormous red oak tree in Wake County, believed to be four centuries old, has withstood hurricanes, tornadoes and damaging winds. The tree, which stood on a 10-acre property that was once the Duke plantation, was just a sapling when the first British settlers landed on American soil.

But on a warm, calm Monday – Memorial Day – the tree came crashing down. Twenty-one feet around, 110 feet tall, the great oak meant a lot to Dave and Donna Little, who own the property in Zebulon where the tree stood for 400 years.

"I went to church yesterday and stood up and gave testimony about the tree and how much I loved it," said Donna Little. "It just grieves me that it's gone."

Donna Little was underneath the tree Saturday afternoon, spraying for weeds, when her husband and son heard a loud noise.

"I said, 'What's that noise?' And he said, 'Oh my gosh, something is going on with that tree, Mom,'" she said. "'Get out from underneath that tree.'"

"We heard this popping noise and he started yelling and so, we came around the house, running around the house and saw this tree coming down," Dave Little said. "It was so loud. It was like a bomb."

Zebulon toppled oak tree Red oak tree in Zebulon crashes down after four centuries

Donna Little said she felt the ground shaking as her dream of making the tree a destination for wedding ceremonies came tumbling to the ground.

Still, the toppled "tree of life," as she calls it, could make someone else's dreams come true.

"For those people who are, maybe, carpenters or furniture builders, this is definitely an opportunity for those people," Donna Little said.

Cleanup of the tree is expected to cost thousands, but the Littles say they're relieved no one was hurt.

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  • slayerhil Jun 3, 2013

    I agree about carpenters using the wood from this tree. Do not let it go to waste, it may cost thousands to clean up, but the wood is worth thousands, as well.

  • bettertreecare Jun 3, 2013

    Too bad they did not call an ISA Master Arborist before the failure. Weak areas in trees can be compensated for by pruning. From the pictures it looked like over the years too many branches had been removed from the house side, so it was lopsided.
    Old trees all have decay, but they can be safely managed if they get some care, every 5 years or so anyway.