Topic: The Aspen Tree, Tauranga (c.1865-2011)

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Tauranga’s famous Aspen Tree (actually a Poplar Deltoides Virginiana, an American hardwood, commonly known as a Cottonwood) was located on the corner of Willow and McLean streets from c.1865 until safety concerns and the tree’s declining health necessitated its removal in 2011. Story by Debbie McCauley (2014).

A romanticised legend gives the origins of The Aspen Tree as from a soldier who dismounted from his horse and pushed his switch into the fertile soil of Tauranga Moana. From this switch sprouted a young sapling that grew into a much loved tree. However, history tells us that the tree had a much different beginning, originating as part of a shelter-belt planted in the 1860s to shelter the gardens of the Church Missionary Society’s Maori Boys’ School, part of Te Papa Mission Station.

The Aspen Reserve, measures 1300m2 and the land once formed part of the military camp occupied by the 43rd Monmouthshire Light Infantry Regiment and the 68th Durham Light Infantry Regiment during the period around the Battle of Gate Pa (Pukehinahina) in 1864.

Age saw the trunk of the magnificent tree hollowing out, but luckily The Aspen still grew steadily enough to replace wood that rotted away each year with new growth.

Some complained about the leaves the tree dumped and the catkins. These downy, fluffy seeds are pollinated by the wind and can travel for long distances and affect allergy sufferers.

An attack on the tree on Guy Fawkes Night in 2007 saw a cavity in the Aspen tree set on fire through the misuse of fireworks. A branch also fell from the tree which saw five metres pruned from it's top canopy.

On 17 January 2011 an eight tonne branch fell off the tree and onto McLean Street, narrowly missing parked cars. The tree underwent considerable pruning with 30 tonnes of branches cut off The Aspen in the following days and 16m chopped from its 34m height. The wood from the pruning was donated to the Tauranga City Sunrise Lions Club for it to sell as a fundraiser.

An inspection following the pruning revealed just how unsafe The Apsen had become. Experts said it was likely to fall over due to extensive rotting internally and externally, and the failure of its roots. The Aspen was beyond saving, and in May 2011 a 6-5 vote by the Tauranga City Council sealed its fate.

The Aspen tree, so dear to the hearts of many in Tauranga Moana, was felled by 8am on the morning of Thursday 7 July 2011.

A 30cm square ‘book shaped’ piece of The Aspen was desposited with Research Collections at Tauranga City Library.

The historically significant Aspen has featured in many images of downtown Tauranga over the years. It was situated across the road from the former Post Office. A selection of photographs follow:

Aspen tree c 1924

 Aspen Tree (c1924). Tauranga City Libraries Image Number: 01-392.

 

Monmouth Redoubt, Tauranga c 1916 10-164

Aspen Tree from Monmouth Redoubt c1916. Tauranga City Libraries Image Number: 10-164.

 

Aspen tree 02-306

 Aspen Tree from redoubt looking south towards post office c1962. Tauranga City Libraries Image Number: 02-306.

 

Pruning the aspen tree 02-307

Pruning the Aspen Tree using Bob Owens crane c1962. Tauranga City Libraries Image Number: 02-307.


Aspen tree 01-203

Aspen Tree in the c1970s. Tauranga City Libraries Image Number: 01-203.

 

Aspen tree 01-204

 Aspen Tree base of trunk c1975. Tauranga City Libraries Image Number: 01-204.


Aspen tree c 1976 10-078

Aspen Tree in c1976. Tauranga City Libraries Image Number: 10-078.

 

Aspen tree 1976 10-070

Aspen Tree in c1976. Tauranga City Libraries Image Number: 10-070.

 

Aspen tree c 1976 10-071

Aspen Tree in c1976. Tauranga City Libraries Image Number: 10-071.

 

Aspen tree c 1976 10-075

  Aspen Tree in c1976. Tauranga City Libraries Image Number: 10-075.

 

Aspen tree c 1976 10-077

 Aspen Tree in c1976. Tauranga City Libraries Image Number: 10-077.

 

Aspen tree c 1976 10-072

  Aspen Tree in c1976. Tauranga City Libraries Image Number: 10-072.

 

Aspen tree c 1976 10-073

Aspen Tree in c1976. Tauranga City Libraries Image Number: 10-073.

 

Aspen tree c 1976 10-074

 Aspen Tree in c1976. Tauranga City Libraries Image Number: 10-074.


Tauranga's Aspen tree (c1976)

 Aspen Tree in c1976. Tauranga City Libraries Image Number: 10-076.

 

Archives Collection Talk by Stephanie Smith (2016)

Stephanie Smith with the Aspen Tree Slice (c1865-2011). Photograph: Debbie McCauley (2016).

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This page was archived at Perma ccc January 2017 https://perma.cc/gup5-9978

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The Aspen Tree, Tauranga (c.1865-2011)


Year:c.1865