Santa Barbara city crews are working to save a tree that has watched over lower State Street for almost 120 years, and have carved out a significant portion of the tree's system in an effort to preserve it.
The Franceschi Flame Tree, which sits in city parking lot 12 at State and Gutierrez streets, is believed to have been planted sometime after one of Santa Barbara's early horticulturalists, Dr. Francesco Franceschi, who established a nursery along lower State Street in 1895.
Franchesci is believed to have propagated the tree from two species of Bottlebrush tree.
But the historic tree suffers from a white rot decay to its trunk that can't be treated, so city arborists have been working to cut away the diseased portion of the tree to save it.
The tree, formerly reaching 50 feet in height, has been humbled to about 15 feet and is in such peril of falling over that it's being supported by four stilts
The city designates historic trees, like the Moreton Bay Fig, and the Francheschi Flame Tree was designated historic in 2002, according to Jill Zachary, assistant director of the city's Parks & Recreation Department.
The decay has been present since the tree was designated, and the problems may have resulted after the root system was most likely impacted after State Street was lowered and the parking lot was constructed in the early 1990s, Zachary said.
She said the city will be monitoring the tree to see if it can recover, but cuttings of the tree will also be taken to graft to root systems to make new trees that could replace the tree.