State record Northern Pin Oak stands tall at Evergreen Cemetery in Caledonia

Daniel McGonigle/The Caledonia Argus  The state champion Pin Oak located in Evergreen Cemetery in Caledonia.
Daniel McGonigle/The Caledonia Argus
The state champion Pin Oak located in Evergreen Cemetery in Caledonia.

By Daniel E. McGonigle

General Manager

The Caledonia Argus

They’ve nicknamed the massive Northern Pin Oak at Evergreen Cemetery “Ervin Barth’s tree.”

Barth, who is the former SWCD manager for the area, found the tree in 1979 and knew it could be special.

“My wife and I, and many of my wife’s family have plots out here and when I came across the tree I knew it was large and could be a state record,” Barth recalled.

He measured the tree and it is, in fact, the largest Pin Oak tree on record in the state of Minnesota.

“I knew we had a big tree there,” joked Barth.

Again, that was in 1979.

Daniel McGonigle/The Caledonia Argus  Ervin Barth who submitted the tree for state consideration when he worked for SWCD.
Daniel McGonigle/The Caledonia Argus
Ervin Barth who submitted the tree for state consideration when he worked for SWCD.

Standing tall

So the tree remained, well cared for, growing, protecting the many bodies who lay beneath its canopy.

Over 40 years later, the tree has added to its girth.

Recent measurements show it to be 147”.

In 2013, the last time Barth did a measurement and reported it to the DNR, it measured at 143” in circumference, 97 feet tall and has a 68 foot crown.

But the tree is diseased.

Valerie Green, with the Department of Natural Resources forestry division, told members of the cemetery board that the tree has fungal conk.

Fungal conks, or mushrooms, growing from the trunk or base of a tree, are an indication that a rot-inducing pathogen has taken up residence.

Green told cemetery board officials that the tree likely only has about 20 years (max) left in its life.

“It looks healthy yet,” Barth said of his old friend.

Green warned cemetery board members about not trimming the tree as that facilitates a faster spread of the fungus.

Barth, who celebrated his 92nd birthday on June 24, said he hopes to outlive his state recognized tree.

“I hope to live another 28 years,” he said putting him at 120 years young.

Barth said that there are, in fact, several record tree species in SE Minnesota. He also noted a Red Oak species near Houston that he reported to the DNR.

Barth, who began with the federal agency, at the time soil and water conservation district in 1957, retired from the department in 1990.

“I was 65,” he smiled.

Promote the tree while its there

Members of the cemetery board hope to educate visitors and guests of the record sized tree species  located at Evergreen.

The chamber website is expected to put a link up to photos and information about the tree on its website.

Guests will have a 20 or so year window to come and enjoy the tree while Ervin Barth’s tree still stands proudly over the cemetery grounds.

The two friends go way back and are intricately and forever connected by their shared history and love of one another.

“I figure I might outlive that tree, but it’s going to come down to a photo finish,” Barth smiled.