Botanic Garden bids farewell to rare Torrey pine

A 100-foot tall Torrey pine, planted by the founders of the San Diego Botanic Garden in the late 1940s or early 1950s, came down July 1.

“It’s a somber time here at the Botanic Garden,” said executive director Julian Duval. “We’re sad to see it go.”

Duval said the Botanic Garden had no choice but to remove the rare tree, which was leaning to such a degree that it was deemed a hazard to visitors, as well as surrounding plants and trees. He added as a silver lining, larger pieces of the tree will be fashioned into furnishings for the Larabee House, a home on the property where the Botanic Garden founders, Ruth and Charles Larabee, lived.

“This is a way to pay homage to them,” Duval said. “There’s an element of making lemonade out of lemons.”

In 1942, Ruth Larabee purchased 26.5 acres of ranch land in Encinitas. Neither of the Larabees was employed at the time, so they had time to travel, acquire plants and establish what would later become the Botanic Garden.

Given the size of the Torrey pine, it took a few days to remove. Using ropes and pulleys, employees of Bishop’s Tree Service took chainsaws to various parts of the tree.

Duval called it “quite an engineering feat.”

“Normally, they’ll take down as much of the tree in one fell swoop as possible to expedite the process,” Duval said. “They couldn’t do that in this case, because the impact would be too great on the area.”

In the absence of the towering tree, he said it will be interesting to see how nearby plants and trees adjust.

“Some aren’t used to getting this much sunlight,” he said.

While the Torrey pine had to come down, there are two other Torrey pines at the Botanic Garden, both over 100 feet in height, that remain in good health.