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June 8, 2012 / philosophermouseofthehedge

Bored? Sappy story. It’s moving.

Going out on a limb.

A little branching out.

Diggin’ up some roots.

Leafing out the view.

They say from a little acorn a mighty oak will grow.

(Is that a botanical observation or a reference to ideas?)


It’s about a Compton oak.

Compton oaks are a rare hybrid of a live oak and an overcup oak

Not many of those: unique.

We have a giant one here.

Michael Merrit, Bayou Region urban forestry coordinator for the Texas Forest Service, says he knows of only one larger Compton oak.

Barry Ward, executive director of Trees for Houston, believes this Compton is only one of two of its size and kind in all of North America.

And it’s not just the type of tree: it’s really really big.

The oak is about 51 inches in diameter.

About 13 feet and three inches in circumference.

Didn’t sprout up overnight in League City.

The Ghirardi Compton Oak is over 100 years old.

Probably planted by the founder of the town, J.C. League around 1907.

Grew for years on land farmed by one of the many Italian families who settled in the area: Sebastian Ghirardi and Domenia Fillippa (married in 1919). Undoubtedly shaded their four children during the hot summer months on the Texas coastal prairie farm.

Their farmhouse was moved to Heritage Park near the Butler Longhorn Museum and can be visited there to see how they lived.

So the Ghirardi Oak is history.

Ghirardi Compton Oak at risk!
(Image Kevin Cox/

Well, that’s the wish of some. Make it past history.

As in chop it down to expand a road.

 Briefly (I heard that), here’s the story:

League City, across the lake from Johnson Space Center and a manageable commute to Houston or Galveston, is growing.

The town has had a small town feel.

July 4th parades of small children on bikes and people watching in lawn chairs.

Movies and concerts in the park during the summer.


Beautiful among sprawling oaks that have survived numerous hurricanes and generations of commercial development.

Row of 20+ Oak trees across from City Hall

Predictable city growing pains: traffic, for one.

Negotiations started by the city to purchase the remaining piece of the Ghirardi farm in order to widen a road.

A neighbor noticed survey crews working and inquired.

A road was going clear through the giant oak. 

(And plans didn’t include a elf-like tunnel through the trunk.)

The community, outraged, pick up the pitchforks and headed to city council.

Who acted surprised.

Surprised that the majority of the people appreciated the history of the area, the small town atmosphere, and the beauty of the oaks.

The oaks. Many officially measured and listed in the Majestic Century Old Oak Tree Registry.

Uh, the League City logo features an oak tree.

““Let’’s get eight or 10 new, 10-inch, beautiful oak trees and plant them around town in honor of that big, old thing,”” councilman Mick Phalen said.

Uh, no

How about moving the road or splitting it to go on either side?

Mayor and city council stopped answering their phones.

A Facebook page “Friends of the Ghirardi Compton Oak” was started.

Local TV stations were called.

Candlelight vigils were held.

Christmas tree lights wrapped the tree trunk

Rumors swirled that chainsaws were moving in after Christmas – when no one was looking.

There was talk of camping out under the tree

Chaining people to the tree.

Children pleaded in front of cameras.

(Where would the Keebler elves live?)

Fast forward to now.

The Ghirardi Compton Oak is pulling up roots.

It will be moved about 1,500 feet to a new park on three-quarters of an acre donated by Clarence Ghirardi, a member of the family for which the tree is named.

The nonprofit Trees for Houston donated $10,000 toward moving the tree.

And the city found some money.  It only took 9 months to do so.

(Although 2 council members pleaded it would be cheaper to reroute the road – and safer for the tree.)

Not a good time of year for moving a tree: scorching hot, and dry.

And the California moving company was the lowest bid.

But it’s our only hope.

They’ve dug out around it and boxed it up like a giant bonsai plant.

Time to pack!
(Image: Kevin M. Cox / Galveston Daily News)

A 70 foot tree in a crate some 30 feet square.

(Why do I keep thinking the Griswold family’s Christmas tree?)

A sumo wrestler of a tree weighing some 640,000 pounds.

(It’s OK. The main crane can handle up to 500 tons – and there’s a smaller one to assist.)

Jackhammers, and hand shovels
(Image: Kevin M. Cox /

Only as they started yesterday, all the warning alarms went off.

(The main 625-ton crane refused to get a hernia?)

They need to reposition the cranes closer to the tree.

(Like crowding the tree will scare it into cooperating and releasing those grabby roots?)

Some of the metal supports need repositioning…or maybe find stronger ones. The I-beams bent and twisted.

Can’t brush that aside.

Cranes ready to lift the Ghirardi Compton Oak
(Image: Michael Paulsen/ Houston Chronicle)

A slight delay. (A little rain possible tonight? Tree’s getting thirsty.)

So stick around?

Wooden you like to see it?

Once the move resumes, click here for Tree Cam.

(It’s night, but there’s a lot of activity there right now.)

Still some shuttling going on around here  – only to a different field of dreams.

Limbs crossed – it looks like it’s moving, (Jump tree! Good tree!)

Phil, the Philosopher Mouse of the Hedge.

Watch video and read more:

League City. Tree updates (Status of tree move – may be tonight!)

NBC/Click2Houston news: VIDEO. “100-year-old tree move, relocation delayed”

Houston Chronicle: “Attempt to move aged oak aborted” (Photos. Article: logistics, crane, comparison to shuttle move, tree history.)

Not into trees? Maybe a post about International Planking Day (2011) with a crateload of wooden remarks?


  1. Honie Briggs / Jun 8 2012 3:14 am

    OMG. This is outrageous!


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jun 8 2012 12:06 pm

      Isn’t it? Thanks for swinging by


      • Honie Briggs / Jun 8 2012 2:03 pm

        Didn’t these people see Avatar? When is the next mayoral/city council election? These are the same types who plaster the roadways with their signage. They don’t care about no stinkin’ trees. During the next election, residents could plant some yard signs that say “Remember The Tree?” What a shame.


        • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jun 8 2012 2:28 pm

          Not kidding about the torches and rid of the last batch a year ago…and these guys have begun to remember that. Can’t let them off the leash. Thanks for the encouragement


  2. jannatwrites / Jun 8 2012 3:49 am

    Oh, I wish they wouldn’t have tried to move it. I’m afraid the poor tree will go into shock and die (or get damaged in the process. (Landscapers tried to move some Saguaro cacti and ended up breaking one so badly it couldn’t be moved….it will most likely rot.) So sad…


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jun 8 2012 12:16 pm

      The tree is out of the hole. About 9 last night they managed to get it up and onto a large steel plate. It looks like they will move it to new location Monday.
      We had quite a rain storm last night with thunder and lightning (Mother nature isn’t please? It started right after they got the tree up and over). More is expected today – which is good for the tree – and also means the soil in the new park location will be wet and receptive to roots. Every little bit helps!
      Thanks for checking in


  3. Katherine Gordy Levine / Jun 8 2012 4:16 am

    Pinned you. If you aren’t on Pinterest, you should be. People can click on the picture and get to your post, or maybe you already knew that. Sad when people play around too much with mother nature. Thank you for this.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jun 8 2012 12:27 pm

      Thanks. The tree is out and sitting on a steel plate. Monday two excavators and a bulldozer will move it to the new park.
      Meanwhile the tree is enjoying a bath.
      Treecam is supposed to stream video of it all.
      THanks for pinning me!


  4. roughseasinthemed / Jun 8 2012 6:39 am

    True to life. Of all the options, lets choose the silliest, most impractical, and probably least helpful to the tree. But if it doesn’t survive the move they can all look smug and say see, we should have just chopped it down anyway. After all, it’s only an old tree. Perhaps they should tie a yellow ribbon round it?


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jun 8 2012 12:36 pm

      The tree was pretty decorated in December. We’ve been fighting this battle for a while and raising money. Taking the lowest bid? A company from California when the man who invented the move giant trees process and equipment lives in Houston? Tortured mangled try is a concern, We’ll see. Fortunately they got it up and out just before the big rain storm – and it wasn’t hit by lightning last night. More rain today – so maybe the roots will be able to settle more easily in wet soil.
      Monday it moves to the new park (
      Thanks for stopping by


  5. CATachresis / Jun 8 2012 11:29 am

    Take your chance Compton! Run free tree!


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jun 8 2012 12:40 pm

      It did! And had a nice stormy rain bath last night. More rain today. (Mother nature is taking care of that tree.) It’s sitting on a steel plate now and moves to the park Monday. Must baby this one for a few years – but it’s worth it. Thanks for branching out to chat


  6. katecrimmins / Jun 8 2012 11:45 am

    oh my, that is really sad. There is a one tree in the town nearby where they altered the road around it. Hope it survives!


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jun 8 2012 12:44 pm

      Moving the road made sense. Put maybe they were afraid some of the pickup drivers wouldn’t see the bend in the road after a late night out? (They should be more concerned about those buildings and houses that seem to keep jumping out of nowhere in front of cars – that’s happening way too much.) Thanks for hanging around


  7. rumpydog / Jun 8 2012 12:36 pm

    Which just goes to show ya that the only thing sacred in this world is man’s foolish aspirations for affluence.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jun 8 2012 12:48 pm

      Makes no sense. We have to fight developers’ influence constantly. Sometime small town governments get dazzled by money and get snookered. Luckily there a lot of people here willing to organize to protect what’s good here. (Not kidding about the pitchforks …) THanks for running past!


  8. shoreacres / Jun 8 2012 1:03 pm

    What? It rained? Really? I guess that explains the water in my bird feeder this morning. I’m really glad – that will help with the transplanting, especially if we get more today. Surely they’re also spending a little time and energy preparing the new site properly – if they do, chances for survival go up exponentially.

    Great post – especially the description of the tree as a “giant bonsai”. I like that!


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jun 8 2012 2:13 pm

      Quite a storm last night – slowly started shortly after 10. They are supposed to be putting in a watering system for it and have been feeding/watering it. The treecam is pretty good today. But like the shuttle, want to see it in person.(wrapped in mosquito netting)


  9. Jeannie / Jun 8 2012 1:16 pm

    This is what ignorance in action looks like. Developers and City Councils!!! I’m for the tree and leaving well enough alone!!


  10. sportsattitudes / Jun 8 2012 1:57 pm

    Sounds like the only entities needing replanting are those who forced the tree to be uprooted. How absurd to take a historic landmark and move it at all, especially for such a short, meaningless distance. Meaningless except to the tree, of course. All to expand a road that by the time it is built, will be as clogged and backed up as things are currently. Common sense drove away a long time ago, didn’t it?


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jun 8 2012 2:26 pm

      Everyone was fighting that roadway – the neighborhoods don’t want it expanded – with more traffic.
      The curent mayor started backtracking as the outrage grew – he remembers what happened to the last mayor in the last election. It’s just a constant battle to keep an eye on them…but they found out we are willing to do so and know how to do make efforts count.
      Oh, we are getting some nice bike trails and they will join up with others in the county now. Progress slowly.
      Thanks for the support


  11. Cat Forsley / Jun 8 2012 2:22 pm

    TRUTH –


    HOW SAD 😦



    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jun 8 2012 2:35 pm

      Some people hear them (others hear money).
      It’s alive – and that should be respected.
      I hate subdivisions that “replace” landscape flowers/plants at their entrances for seasonal color. If it’s growing and thriving, what’s with jerking it out of the ground? Plan landscape where plants bloom in rotation – that used to be the concept. At least some of the companies “recycle” the removed plants, but it doesn’t seem right. (I can imagine all those little voices screaming.)
      That tree has always gotten lots of hugs – and now maybe it will thrive and kids will climb in it to read and dream. DO kids still climb trees? The ones around here would be great for that!
      Thanks for sending the tree good thoughts


      • Cat Forsley / Jun 8 2012 2:41 pm

        UNBELIEVABLE …….HUH ….


        HEART !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  12. Madame Weebles / Jun 8 2012 2:46 pm

    This is heartbreaking. The world doesn’t need another road but it needs its old trees!!


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jun 8 2012 3:21 pm

      The road when done will be forgotten pavement – the tree offers stories told and yet to be told – with hopes and dreams. It’s a watcher of past, present, and future.
      (Good tree! Hold it together until you can put down those roots!)


  13. PiedType / Jun 8 2012 5:18 pm

    While 100 years is not particularly old as old trees go, this is not just any old tree. In any case, you don’t go around chopping down trees willy nilly. It takes a long time to grow a big, healthy, established tree, and just as long to replace it. I just don’t understand the “pave paradise and put up a parking lot” mentality. And moving the tree makes no sense (unless you want to kill it). Part of its history is in where it stood. Transplanting any tree is always risky. Traumatic to the tree, unknown chance of survival. And if you absolutely must transplant, at least do it in winter when the tree is dormant! Jeez, who are these idiots?


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jun 8 2012 10:39 pm

      Exactly. This tree has history. There’s another stand that’s now a city park – when those were threatened in 1994 by development a local man stepped up and bought the entire property and created a public garden in honor of his wife (both born in 1907 in the area). There are people who care about this stuff and the number has grown enough to impact politics.
      Thanks for adding your thoughts


  14. jmmcdowell / Jun 8 2012 6:29 pm

    Fingers crossed that the tree does survive the move. But moving large, established trees is a risky proposition. If I lived there, I’d vote to “uproot” the incumbents from office. Keep us posted on how the tree fares!


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jun 8 2012 10:43 pm

      So far the tree looks OK. And it’s about to rain again.
      Each election, the ones who stand so close to commercial development are being voted out. People interested in the environment tend to show up at elections.
      Thanks for climbing by!


  15. birdieruns / Jun 9 2012 3:54 pm

    “They paved Paradise and put up a Parking Lot…”


  16. My Ox is a Moron / Jun 9 2012 6:38 pm

    Why do people think that they can make nature behave the way they want? I hope that beautiful old tree survives. There is a hundred years of history in that tree. The stories it could tell about life, love, drought, strife, failure and success.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jun 9 2012 7:26 pm

      Will update post soon – been to check on tree. Looks like the 3 companion trees (not small oaks in their own right) are destined for chainsaw. Especially aggravating when anyone can see a short fork/curve to the adjoining road would had been so easily done. Thanks for checking in


  17. Beth / Jun 9 2012 10:05 pm

    I remember once listening to a story on NPR where a HOA was looking into killing birds around their area, because apparently when birds eat, they leave unsightly gifts in places that do not improve the look of a well groomed HOA. Stories where development meets natures always make me twitch and the fact they uprooted this tree for a road instead of going around it makes me look like I have some sort of uncontrolled palsy. (Residual twitching left over from ancient cypress that was destroyed by the meth addict living within.) I need to live somewhere untouched by man that has running water, electricity, internet access and pizza delivery.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jun 9 2012 10:39 pm

      Last summer there was quite a concern about wild birds annoying subdivisions (related post “Ruffled Feathers for Canadians” under sidebar tag “Birds”) Really people, you moved to wooded areas/nature preserves and out of the concrete city canyons, why? You wanted a Disneyland forest?
      THanks for joining in – planning to update tree later – it’s sitting around waiting transportation


  18. Unconfirmed Bachelorette / Jun 10 2012 4:13 pm

    I grew up in that area. I remember the beautiful oaks while driving through League City to go sailing on the weekends. I sure hope that gorgeous tree makes it.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jun 10 2012 4:24 pm

      The oaks (in the downtown parks) on the way to Watergate/marinas are safe. They survived hurricane Ike and last summer’s drought OK.
      This one was SW of the high school complex. Will update shortly – but you know the heat down here – not so good for trees out of the ground.
      Thanks for driving by!


  19. Steve Schwartzman / Jun 14 2012 12:24 pm

    Seems like it would indeed have been cheaper and easier to move the road slightly and leave the tree in place.

    Your account reminds me of the vigils held a few decades ago for the Treaty Oak in Austin:
    (See “Treaty Oak” in WIKI)

    That was typical of Austin, but an attunement to nature in some people hasn’t kept others here from mowing down wildflowers in their prime, something I’ve often had occasion to complain about.

    Steve Schwartzman


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jun 14 2012 1:48 pm

      In Austin it would have been a no brainer. (Started to include Treaty Oak, but it was getting a bit long – thanks for mentioning that – great story!)
      One good thing about the wildfires last summer is that the spring wild flowers blazed better than ever. Sad that some are cutting before the seeds have a chance.
      Really glad you stopped by – you have and interesting blog. Always looking for a good read. Thanks and hasta later.


  20. jwms1 / Jun 14 2012 2:30 pm

    I would worry that the steel plate would absorb heat from the sun and cook the roots. I hope they thought ahead. Have they placed it in the ground yet?


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jun 14 2012 3:37 pm

      Just finished an update that will be posted soon – The tree is grounded. They started at 6:30 yesterday morning. We watched the tree’s finally getting into location around 4 pm. They have been giving it over 1,000 gallons of water a day during the process (You are right about the hot metal plates). An irrigation system is in just for the tree. Now if we could just get some slow soaking rains! Thanks for checking in


  21. pnwauthor / Jun 26 2012 3:02 am

    What a story! I love and greatly appreciate trees, especially oak trees. The town where I grew up passed a law that it is illegal to chop down an oak tree.

    I say lose the cars, get bicycles and save the trees. That should solve the traffic problems. And today, bikes come in all shapes and sizes, some as chic as cars, I think cooler.

    Great post. You always have something interesting to say about nature, civic life…oh, yes, and the German.


    • philosophermouseofthehedge / Jun 26 2012 2:20 pm

      This town has saved a lot of large oaks. It’s just a shift in thought from a small rural town to liveable neighborhoods (which is why people want to be here: less pavement, history and small town feel). It takes constant prodding and watching, but slowly things are changing. Bike trails being completed – new parks and “wild” areas. Trying to save things for the future from developers’ bulldozers. If you haven’t read the other tree posts, scroll down to the last one and watch the move – it’s just amazing. Oh, and been checking on the tree -it’s got new growth and an irrigation system with lots of mulch around it. Looking good so far.
      Thanks for branching out and visiting



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