3 Times Trees Were Taken Too Soon

Ryan Inzana
Ryan Inzana / Ryan Inzana

These trees met their untimely ends at the hands of celebrities, drunk drivers, and graduate students.

1. Mr. T’s Chainsaw Massacre

In 1987, Mr. T bought a Tudor mansion in the elegant Chicago suburb of Lake Forest. The A-Team star then grabbed a chainsaw and—citing sniffles—began felling more than 100 oaks, elms, and maples on his property. Soon his estate “looked as if it had been ravaged by an army of beavers,” the Chicago Tribune reported. Tree-loving locals were so appalled, they dubbed it the “Lake Forest Chainsaw Massacre.” It wasn’t the first time Mr. T had channeled his inner Paul Bunyan. A decade earlier, while in the army, his platoon sergeant punished him with the task of chopping down trees. Mr. T axed 70 in under four hours.

2. L’Arbre du Ténéré

It’s tough being the world’s loneliest tree. Rooted in the Sahara, the Tree of Ténéré was surrounded by a sea of sand—its closest tree neighbor lived 250 miles away! The acacia was a regular pit stop for travelers, who poetically viewed it as a testament to nature’s will to live. After all, it had survived desertification, thriving despite temperatures over 110°F, and stretching its roots more than 100 feet to find water. Nothing, it seemed, could stop it. At least until 1973, when an allegedly drunk driver somehow managed to run it over. Today it’s interred in a mausoleum at the National Museum of Niger.

3. The Death of Prometheus

As a graduate student, Donald Currey took core samples of trees to study climate change. While exploring eastern Nevada in 1964, he spotted a short, gnarled bristlecone pine and began drilling a core. When the bit broke off inside the tree, he asked a park ranger for help, and the two decided to cut the tree down. Currey took a slab of the tree back to his lab, where he counted the rings and gasped. The sample was 4844 years old! He had not only killed the world’s oldest known tree—he had killed the oldest living individual organism on the planet. On a positive note, another bristlecone pine called Methuselah is creeping up in age to Prometheus. It’s some 4800 years old.