It's been hit twice by lightning and rebounded from a near-death experience. Now, after almost 15 years of neglect, a 250-year-old oak tree in Okatie is getting some much-needed tender, loving care.
Mike Murphy, arborist and owner of Preservation Tree Care Inc. in Beaufort, is volunteering his services to preserve the McGarvey Oak. The tree sits on Beaufort County-owned land near the southern intersection of U.S. and S.C. 170, known as McGarvey's Corner.
The stout oak was on its deathbed in the early 1990s when the intersection was built, said tree consultant Gary Mullane, president of Mullane Associates on Hilton Head Island. Mullane donated his services then to bring the tree back to life, using high-nitrogen fertilizer and mulch to renourish it.
"It was a big, old, lonely tree in the middle of a construction site, and no one was doing anything. The tree was 90 percent dead," Mullane said. "It got beat up from construction. I figured I could save it."
He continued to place mulch and fertilizer around the tree for the next three to four years. And the tree flourished. Mullane said he stopped because the tree was doing so well it did not require further care, and he no longer ran a tree care business to do the work.
Since then, mulch had been replaced by grass and healthy limbs with dead ones. Overgrown Spanish moss also threatened to block out sunlight.
That's where Murphy came in.
"It needed maintenance big-time," Murphy said.
Preservation Tree Care pruned and de-mossed the tree Tuesday and strung copper wire to safely conduct lightning strikes to the ground to protect the tree.
Crews will apply fertilizer later and replace the grass with mulch to encourage root growth, foreman John Clark said.
The county, in return, is providing trucks to transport the mulch and a barrier to protect the tree from maintenance vehicles that park underneath it. Murphy said the county has also agreed to provide minimal maintenance, including reapplying mulch and removing weeds.
"We knew the county wasn't able to afford the full maintenance, given the economic times, and it's not in an active area, like a park. If somebody didn't step up to do it, it wasn't going to get done," Murphy said. "It's an important historic tree that is in the public eye. It's the only tree they left when they built that intersection, and we want to promote its health."