Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette , Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix . See the about page to read more about the DG.
After 25 years of significant decline, the Bender Oak, estimated to be around 300 years old, had to be taken down for safety reasons. As the Scott Arboretum's oldest and biggest tree, the Bender Oak held a special place in the hearts of Arboretum staff, Swarthmore faculty, and students alike. To honor the tree, the remainder of the trunk is set to be crafted into a sculpture.
The Bender Oak is a naturally occurring hybrid of a Red and Scarlet Oak. Because it pre-dates the college, its exact age is not known. According to Andrew Bunting, curator for the Scott Arboretum, trees like the Bender Oak were providers of shade for livestock at a time when much of Swarthmore and its surrounding areas were all farmland. Photo courtesy of the Scott Arboretum Archives.
Though the Scott Arboretum made many efforts to keep the tree standing for as long as possible, such as removing dead branches and running lightning wire up the trunk, the oak's failing health posed a threat to the safety of students and the nearby tennis courts.
Esteemed wood, ice, and bronze sculptor Marty Long will be using the remaining part of the trunk to create a wooden carving of several acorns and two oak leaves spiraling upward. This sculpture will not be permanent, according to Bunting. Eventually, the trunk and root system will rot away and the sculpture will go with it. The sculpture is set to be worked on and completed over winter break.