September 2, 2014  

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Friendship Oak Healthy, Growing Despite Damage From Hurricane Katrina

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Mississippi Forestry Commission service foresters Eric Gonyea, left, and Randy Wilson measure the Friendship Oak on The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Park campus in Long Beach. (Southern Miss University Communications photo by Charmaine Schmermund)

The resilient Friendship Oak on The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Park campus is healthy and steadily growing six years after Hurricane Katrina struck the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Using non-invasive methods, service foresters with the Mississippi Forestry Commission measured the Friendship Oak and found that the tree has increased in size since its last measurement 10 years ago. The circumference of the tree has grown over one foot and is currently measuring 19 feet 9 and one-half inches. The diameter of the live oak, now measuring 6 feet 2 and three-quarter inches, is an increase of nearly six inches.

The Friendship Oak, which has looked over the gulf for more than 500 years, is also getting taller. Growing nearly one foot each year over the past decade, the Friendship Oak now stands at a towering 59 feet.

Using a 360-degree transponder, service foresters Randy Wilson and Eric Gonyea were able to determine the crown spread of the Friendship Oak. The transponder was positioned at the tree’s trunk and, using a laser vertex hypsometer, the foresters were able to document the size of the tree at the outer edges back to its crown.

Using this same equipment, the foresters were able to measure from the base of the tree to the tip of the highest branch. The hypsometer measured the distance and angle, and using trigonometry, computed the height with those readings.

With this healthy diagnosis, the Friendship Oak will continue reaching her resting limbs outward, beckoning daily visitors to enter her growing shade and helping make friendships last a lifetime.