LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - Chainsaws are nibbling away at the beloved Friendship Oak. The majestic Live Oak tree is a centerpiece of the University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Park campus in Long Beach.
In August, one of the tree's huge main limbs broke due to heavy new growth and water weight from the rainy summer. USM arborists, with help from oak experts from Louisiana State University, plan to remove the limb and shore up other huge branches with supports to prevent further damage.
"The branch weighs tens of thousands of pounds. They have to repair the wounds on the tree as they go. It will be nibbled away before a final cut," said Loren Erickson, USM Superintendent of Campus Landscapes and a certified arborist.
Erickson said arborists will also prune the remaining branches of the Friendship Oak to help keep the 500-year-old tree in balance.
When USM announced the need to remove the large branch, officials said the rest of the iconic tree is in good health, but added, "We do realize that the Friendship Oak is moving into a more mature phase of its life span, and future impacts of weather and other natural elements are difficult to predict."
USM's website says the Friendship Oak is more the 500 years old, stands 59 feet tall, with a span of 155 feet when last measured by the Mississippi Forestry Commission in 2011.