‘The Senator’ was the worlds oldest and largest bald cypress tree until 2012

The senator was the largest and oldest bald cypress tree (Taxodium distichum) in the world before an unfortunate accident in 2012.

The monstrous tree was estimated to be 3500 years old, making it the 5th oldest tree in the world. Amazingly, the tree was around when the Greeks destroyed the city of Troy.

It stood 118 feet tall and had a circumference of 35 feet. Before a hurricane blew the top of the tree off in 1925, the tree stood 165 feet tall. Not only was the senator the largest bald cypress tree, but it was also the largest tree east of the Mississippi.

The tree was well known and highly accessible. Its tremendous size made it useful throughout history as a marker for people traveling through the area.

The tree became a tourist attraction for people since the 1800s even though most of the surrounding area is swampland.

On January 16, 2012, a fire was reported at the top of the senator tree. Firefighters reported that the tree burned from the inside out like a chimney. They tried to extinguish the flames but unfortunately, the tree collapsed. The charred remains of the tree only stand 20 to 25 feet tall. 

On February 29, 2012, Seminole County police arrested a woman who confessed to causing the fire that destroyed The Senator. Sarah Barnes and a friend were smoking crystal meth inside the tree and using an open flame as a guide. After the fire broke out Barnes took photos and videos with her cell phone and later showed them to several people. This lead investigators to be tipped off by some of the friends. 

In 2014 Barnes was sentenced to 30 months in prison but the sentence was suspended if she could successfully complete five years of probation. In October 2015, Barnes was arrested again on charges violating her probation and jailed in December 2015. 

Even though The Senator is no longer around for tourists to see its legacy lives on in various artworks that have been donated to the county. Also, 18 organizations receive remnants of the tree to display including the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, Florida Museum of Natural History and Ripleys Believe it or Not Museum.