Tree experts say the old patient is still healthy at Kimball Jenkins

  • Arborist Tim Armstrong from Bartlett Tree Expert climbs a tree at Kimball Jenkins estate to look at its overall health on Wednesday, July 24, 2019. RYAN LINEHAN—Courtesy

  • ABOVE: Arborist Tim Armstrong from Bartlett Tree Expert climbs a tree at Kimball Jenkins Estate to look at its overall health on Wednesday. Courtesy of Ryan Linehan

  • Arborist Joseph Davis from Bartlett Tree Experts uses scanning equipment to check on the health of the tree at the Kimball Jenkins estate on Wednesday. Courtesy of Ryan Linehan

  • The tree at the Kimball Jenkins estate, which has grown from planted in 1878, had a scan to look at its interior health. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • LEFT: The copper beech tree at the Kimball Jenkins Estate overhangs near Carriage House on Thursday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • The ArborSonic scan of the copper beech tree at Kimball-Jenkins Estate produced pictures like this, indicating the health of the wood in a section of the trunk. Courtesy—Bartlett Tree Experts

Monitor staff
Published: 7/25/2019 4:33:40 PM

The doctor has good news for the gorgeous, 141-year-old patient: Tests have come back and so far, everything is OK.

“We’re still dissecting the information, if you will, but the first preliminary results are that things look good,” said Joseph Davis, an arborist for Bartlett Tree Experts.

Davis is one of several tree experts who spent part of Wednesday examining, both from the ground and from high up in the branches, a huge copper beech tree that was planted as a sapling in 1878 on what is now the Kimball-Jenkins Estate in Concord.

The tree is well known – it’s a common backdrop for wedding photos – but one of its three massive leaders from the tree fell during a storm in 2007. That led to worries that other parts might fall and damage buildings, especially the nearby Carriage House. Bartlett Tree Experts examined it back then and pronounced it safe, but the estate thought it was time to check again.

“There was a pocket of rot that we just couldn’t see then,” said Ryan Linehan, general manager of the historic site. “Since it has been over 10 years I had them back out. Technology has come a long way since 2007.”

As Davis explained it, the team, including Tim Armstrong and Emmett Bean, updated their diagnosis via the time-honored methods of visual inspection as well as with two high-tech methods.

The main tech tool, he said, has the brand name ArborSonic. A few transducers are placed around the tree at a given height and they send ultrasonic sound waves through the tree. Changes in how the sound waves move through the tree are translated into a picture of its density at that section, showing likely spots of decay or hollow areas.

The process is similar to the way an ultrasound machine in hospitals provide “pictures” of the inside of a person’s body. 

The other tool is a Resistograph – “We call it a ‘Resi’,” Davis said – used in places where the ArborSonic can’t reach. It involves drilling into the tree and measuring how much resistance the drill bit encounters to determine density, helping measure the quality and health of the wood.

Such diagnosis can cost from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars depending on details of the job, including whether it’s necessary to climb up into the tree, and is becoming more common, Davis said. On Wednesday, in fact, the team performed similar work with a tree in a residential area before coming to Kimball-Jenkins.

The copper beech is one of three trees that were planted in 1878 as the home and carriage house were built, said Linehan.

The other two – a yellowwood and a sycamore – are state champions because of their size, but the yellowwood is in bad shape.

“It has kind of reached the end of its life. There’s not a whole lot more we can do to it; we’re holding onto it as long as we can until it becomes a safety hazard,” Linehan said.

Wednesday showed, however, that the copper beach seems to be just fine.

“Overall, it hasn’t changed a whole lot since 2007, so most likely it will outlive me,” Linhean. 

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)

 


David Brooks bio photo

David Brooks is a reporter and the writer of the sci/tech column Granite Geek and blog granitegeek.org, as well as moderator of the monthly Science Cafe Concord events. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics he became a newspaperman, working in Virginia and Tennessee before spending 28 years at the Nashua Telegraph . He joined the Monitor in 2015.



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