LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - A process is underway to determine the overall health of the Friendship Oak at the University of Mississippi's Gulf Park campus after a crack in a branch led to a big part of the more than 500-year-old beloved tree being cut.
"We had an actual large scaffold branch, which is a large branch that comes straight out like you see on the coast and it cracked at the trunk and gently came down to the ground," USM Superintendent of Landscaping Loren Erickson.
The branch cracked earlier in the week and Loren Erickson, a certified arborist, made what he thought was a necessary call to take the entire branch down.
"We've got to remove the piece that actually broke off," Erickson said. "It will never repair itself or grow back. It will not survive, you're just going to have a dead log laying on the ground. So for public safety, and for the health of the tree, we've got to remove the branch that was broken."
People come from all over to get a glimpse of the iconic oak, like Will Bell from Tennessee, who watched in amazement as a large crane pulled the broken limb away.
"I really wasn't sure what was happening," Bell said. "I was concerned that maybe they were going to cut it down, but glad that's not the case."
The largest parts of the branch will now be looked at by researchers. Erickson thinks those pieces will give him insight into the health of the rest of the tree that he said could still have a lifespan of 200 to 300 more years.
"We know a lot of the tree is left and it's healthy," Erickson said. "The branch itself that tore is attached to other branches, we've got to asses that, we don't know at this time. Although from outward appears it looks to be just fine."
Erickson will be working on a detailed report over the next few weeks that will outline the likely cause of the crack and the remaining tree's condition.