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A twisted cliff-top pine that ranked among the South’s most iconic trees met its demise during an ice storm last week, according to Tennessee State Parks officials.
“The lone pine at Buzzard’s Roost,” as it was known, was believed to be nearly 150 years old, predating the popular state park that has surrounded it since 1937.
It eventually became a landmark in its own right, sought out not just by tourists, but by photographers and artists.
“This tree had a very distinct shape, almost like a bonsai tree, and the view behind it is breathtaking,” Fall Creek Falls State Park Manager Jacob Young told McClatchy News.
“Fall Creek Falls is getting anywhere from 1.5 to 2 million visitors a year, and many have taken photos at this location. There have been countless weddings, proposals, dedications, spiritual events, anniversaries and celebrations for those who have passed, etc., there.
“This is arguably the most photographed tree in Tennessee and it may extend further than that,” Young said.
A winter storm hit the park Feb. 13 and 14 and the combined weight of ice and snow twisted and snapped the 15-foot tree, he said. Closer inspection revealed the interior of the Virginia pine had been weakened by rot, Young said.
News of the tree’s destruction drew a quick response from fans on social media, with many sharing photos of formal events staged in front of it and weather extremes captured behind it.
“Definitely an era lost,” Dana Parish posted.
“Many generations of my family have had their pic made with that tree. Goodbye old friend, you will be missed,” Jennifer DePriest Rice wrote.
“That tree had a deep spiritual meaning for me. I have sat beneath it many times, at various points of my life, and listen to the wind in the valleys,” Danny McCullough posted.
The tree, dated to the 1870s, somehow found a way to thrive atop a harsh 150-foot cliff called Buzzard’s Roost that overlooks the Cane Creek Gorge. The park is about 120 miles southeast of Nashville.
“The view of the Cane Creek Gorge from this location is amazing. You can see for miles. You can hear the wind coming out of the gorge and the river as it cuts through. It’s nature at its best,” Young said.
The park staff saved parts of the tree to incorporate into a display and to use in future programming, he said.
That the tree was showing signs of advanced age is not surprising. Virginia pines grow to about 18 feet on average and live to 90 years, though a few have been known to survive 150 years, reports Conifers.org.