Moving 100 Year Old Oak Tree

"Mush! You silly human machines"-- tree probably.

Watch the incredible process from start to finish in this video.

The Ghirardi Compton Oak has been a piece of League City's history for over 100 years. The tree stands 56 feet tall, has a canopy that is over 100 feet wide, and is 135 inches around. It also weighs an incredible 518,000 pounds. A county road widening project put the future of the Ghirardi Oak in jeopardy. Council voted to use park dedication funds to hire Hess Landscaping Construction to move the majestic oak 1,500 feet. A project that took them just under a month to complete and cost roughly $250,000.

-From the Youtube video description

Shit, to a tree that must be like sitting on a flatbed truck going 100 mph.

Still cheaper than moving your mom

The snail on the tree - "Holy shit, slow down!"

For 250k, that doesn't seem entirely unreasonable for moving a tree of that size and age.

They should have moved it 100 years ago then.

What about the tree's roots? Shouldn't they be really long?

"Yea sure we can move 2lbs for a $1"

"I want to get there but I want to get there alive!"

I was curious enough to do a google search, so here's something from the website of a company that does this sort of stuff:

The overall physiological changes that affect a tree through moving it are relatively alike regardless of the size or age of the tree. The size and condition of the root ball in relation to the overall size of the tree is a factor in the amount of stress a tree will realize when it is moved. It is important that a tree be moved to a receptive environment. Ambient air temperature, humidity, and wind velocity will affect water loss in the tree. The soil environment into which the tree is planted is important for root growth. We come to the root of the problem.

The larger the root ball, the better the chance for success for the tree in its reestablishment. It is important to keep the integrity of the root ball intact to avoid transplant shock. A large portion of the food lifeline is being left behind. The stored reserves in the roots will get a tree through its first year, so if the roots are not properly transplanted, the tree will die. The American Association of Nurserymen has set standards for root ball moving. A minimum standard is eight inches of root ball for each inch of trunk caliper for needled evergreens and nine inches of root ball per inch of trunk caliper for deciduous trees. A caliper is measured six inches above ground.

Root pruning is a practice adopted by many tree movers and nurseries selling ball and burlap trees. The roots are purposely trimmed back to lateral roots that respond by producing more roots, thereby increasing the size of the root ball and encouraging growth of smaller root hairs. This practice can be done purposely in any setting where a tree is to be moved and there is time to increase root growth before its move. (There is a specific procedure for this practice, but it is not discussed here.) The benefit is an increase in the integrity and volume of the root ball making for a tree, when transplanted, that should acclimate very well to its new surroundings, given proper post-transplant care. This practice can be helpful on smaller trees. For larger trees, this idea is controversial. Some think that when using a larger spade to dig up a tree, such as 90", root pruning may not be necessary because a larger portion of the roots is being salvaged with the tree. A 90" spade usually relates to a 14" tree caliper.

When the roots of the tree are cut by a spade or shovel in preparation for a move, a once large system of roots that fed the tree is now reduced immensely. For a tree in leaf, this huge reduction in the availability of minerals and water through the root system to the leaves is stressful as the tree struggles to maintain its existing growth with a much reduced feeder system. It is put on a forced diet. The leaves rely on water and minerals that moves from its roots up through the xylem. Sunlight is processed by the leaves in photosynthesis, which creates sugars that return down the tree through its phloem to feed the roots.

Rebuilding the root system is necessary to restore the feeding system of the tree so that all of the vegetative growth above ground level, the trunk, branches, twigs, leaves, and flowers, are able to function and survive. During this period of growth bytransplanting an established tree the roots, the tree produces very little new vegetative growth. A dormant tree’s roots are less affected than a tree in leaf is by the shutdown in photosynthesis, and prevailing opinion is that for a deciduous tree, it may be moved when in leaf or dormant. Spring planting gives a tree a full season to acclimate to its new environment and prepare for the cold winter season; however, dormant planting allows the tree to be moved with less consequence to roots and existing foliage. Conifers also can be moved at any time except when they begin candling. A timetable for the reinstatement of the tree’s growth above ground follows a general rule of thumb: one year for each inch of trunk caliper.

There's more, but that's the most pertinent info.

We come to the root of the problem.


My guess is that you can remove a certain part of the roots without damaging the tree.

Yeah this was some really bad public works planning

I'm from League City and have never heard of this

Crazy that 100 years ago that tree was just an acorn

That's it. I'm buying a shit ton of basketballs, beers, and hiring 4 excavators for a game of giant Hungry Hungry Hippos.

Who's in?

Another example of excavator ingenuity

Yes, exactly like how humans used veins per hour to measure distance.

hroom, hm, come, my friends. The Ents are going to war. It is likely that we go to our doom. The last march of the Ents. 

Yeah. Saw the title and honestly questioned what these people were thinking. Clearly a small amount of research was done because Oaks are notorious for transplant shock.

Disease threatens League City's historic oak (2014)

How is the tree now?

Answer: Not good, it's going to die.

Contrary to popular belief, it's not the thought that counts


Not true, i work for a tree moving company, i have moved 10,000+ large trees. There are trees moved in the 1920's still alive today. The key is post maintenance, you must water these trees until they can re-establish their rootsystem and become independent once again which can take years. Our transplant success is 95%+ with proper maintenance.


Honestly moving a massive 100 year old oak tree is almost an impossible task anyway. That entire field was probably its root system.

Nope. My wife is an arborist/licensed tree expert, and she's always pointing out that depictions of trees with roots as deep or even half as deep as the tree is tall are completely false. The grand majority of roots are 6 to 12 inches underground. On the other hand, they often run farther away from the trunk than the branches do. 

Here's the quickest, simple illustration I could find:

Nope. My wife is an arborist/licensed tree expert, and she's always pointing out that depictions of trees with roots as deep or even half as deep as the tree is tall are completely false. The grand majority of roots are 6 to 12 inches underground. On the other hand, they often run farther away from the trunk than the branches do.

Here's the quickest, simple illustration I could find:

I'm a forester by education. The tree itself does not weigh that much. It's all that soil around the root system that makes the total weight that they moved 518,000 pounds. Oak wood weighs around 60 - 65 pounds per cubic foot green. There isn't 8000+ cubic feet in that tree.

6:16 in the morning, I read this whole thing and didn't even realize or remember.

Oaks have delicate root systems. The excavation process certainly did it no favors. Then they transplanted to an area of low drainage and within a year they have wood boring insects and disease. Then the city pays the same company to install drainage. These guys got taken.

Care to cite a source? This article dated May 2015 says things were looking good:

The July 24, 2015 city manager update says the foilage was green and healthy ("There have been no changes in the condition of the tree; the foliage is still green and healthy.") , all updates after that one say there have been no changes:

This city manager report from Sept 4, 2015 seems to suggest the tree is doing ok as well:


You just read something very informative to the thread that many don't know and the only thing you can add is "Dank?"

I think you'd just pop the basketballs

They're actually German and misspelled "Danke."

And now its tons of sequestered carbon

From Dickinson, vaguely remember something about a tree.

I lived a block away from the tree. It was moved a few hundred feet from the corner of Louisiana and 518 farther south on Louisiana. The city has a guarantee with the company that moved it - the tree has to survive for 5 years or the move is free - something like that. This is in League City, Tx.,-95.0644673,251m/data=!3m1!1e3

i love that little parasol


Now where can I find the full video?

But did you die

This is similar to how it will look when the robots begin to harvest the last of our natural resorces

Two very old, irreplaceable pounds...


Seemed to have a very shallow root ball. I have bought A tree and It was fairly small and had a root ball half the size of the tree.


Did you see the posted ? From the description, it weighs in at 518,000 lbs or 259 tons. That is a lot of weight to move.

Crane picks aren't a simple grab/lift/move. They have to be planned. Adding in the factor of them using 2 cranes on the lift out of the whole, and you have a logistical nightmare and multiple days of a much larger than 90 ton crane (times 2) cost.

They did sled the thing and the heavy machinery seems necessary due to the soft, loose earth they have to traverse.

It's hard to tell what's going on in the GIF, but the video adds some perspective.

Baffles me that you're spending time posting on the internet when you could be volunteering at a shelter.

Or use bowling balls

Aren't we all?

Remarkable video thanks for sharing. What an entertaining waste of human resources

There's a difference between survived the move that day and survived the move in two months/two years. Looks like the move stressed the tree enough that it caught a fungus and an insect infestation, but that with some tree care and improved water drainage it's doing okay.

From Alabama, want to poison this.

It depends on the species. Oak in particular appear to be able to grow a "tap" root that extends deep.

Brief discussion about how the type of soil influences the root system's depth.

Beautiful report (with table) of the depth of roots vs species and soil (pdf)

Edit: Learning a lot today :-)

then who was snail?


They spared no expense.

Definitely works here. Carbon Sequestration: "a natural or artificial process by which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere and held in solid or liquid form."-Internet

I never say anything.. unless it is worth taking.. a.. long.. time.. to.. say..

From Louisiana, never heard of this.