Condition Of Live Oak Tree Prompts Disagreement

Some people say it's a dead hazard that needs to be cut down. But there's apparently disagreement over the condition of a large live oak in the median near Seashore Methodist Assembly in Biloxi.

In October, Southern District Highway Commissioner Wayne Brown told WLOX News, "It must be dead, dead, dead. And MDOT is not going to cut down a live oak with a green leaf on it."

Thousands of cars a day pass beneath it's broad branches, branches that look to be decaying. But is the live oak really dead? We consulted an expert: City of Biloxi arborist, Eric Nolan.

"The tree's been dead for at least eight months. It showed a little bit of life at the beginning of the growing season. But it just didn't last through the summer at all," said Nolan.

He traces the beginning of the tree's demise to a storm several years ago. Lightning struck the very heart of this large live oak.

"I think that was probably the main factor, along with the droughts we've had the last couple years, put it under a stress situation. The lightning strike didn't help it one bit," he explained.

Although quick to pronounce the tree dead, Nolan was cautious about calling it a traffic hazard.

"It's not necessarily an immediate hazard right now, but as the wood decays and gets weaker and more brittle, then you're going to have more limbs into the highway, which causes a major safety concern on Highway 90," he said.

MDOT maintenance crews cut down several large sections of branches just over a week ago, on December 7th, which made us wonder: Why didn't they just go ahead and cut the whole tree down?

The MDOT tree trimmer says he found signs of life. Chris Bryan told WLOX News, "I saw buds on the tips of the tree limbs."

He added, "We try and give live oaks every chance to survive."

The official word from MDOT maintenance gives the tree a reprieve until at least next Spring. If it shows no signs of greening up, it's coming down.

MDOT did take some action at the tree. Following our visit, work crews removed the piles of dead limbs and cleaned up the mess around the live oak.