Tucson Oddity: Experts unable to get to root of mysterious tree growth

2011-08-15T00:00:00Z 2014-07-15T17:46:55Z Tucson Oddity: Experts unable to get to root of mysterious tree growthRhonda Bodfield Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 15, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Sammy Tyson, you're not alone.

It seems Tyson is finding a particular tree at a home on the northeast corner of East Grant and North Cherry extremely distracting during his commute along Grant Road.

"No one can tell me what it is," he said, wondering if it's a huge nest that's perched atop a towering cypress tree in front of a home in the 1600 block of East Grant.

Homeowner Susan Chambers Casteloes is used to the attention.

People have stopped to ask what the heck it is. They've taken pictures of it.

And she just doesn't have a good answer.

"I just tell them to use their imagination," she said.

The marketing specialist grew up in the house, which was built in 1927.

She doesn't recall noticing it as a kid, but it's been in her consciousness now for about 25 years.

There are a bunch of birds in it. No pterodactyls at last check.

Tyson's inquiry, however, has launched much speculation.

The city's transportation spokesman, Michael Graham, said the city's landscape manager has looked at it with binoculars and believes it's a vine.

Chambers Casteloes said, indeed, there was a vine intertwined with the tree at one point, with yellow flowers on it.

She's been so curious that at some point, she hired someone to get up in the tree. But the tree was too flimsy to support his weight, so he couldn't get far enough to find out.

Clearly, this calls for expert help.

Randy Serraglio, a conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity, went to look at it and ruled out a nest.

"After close inspection - with binoculars - I can say definitively that the problem with this tree is … a mystery," he wrote in an email.

He said he doesn't think it's a pathogen, because the tangled mass is dead, and typically such nefarious masses of growth remain living.

He has concluded, based on a broken-off remnant of trunk poking up above the mass, that a blast of wind sheared off the top of the tree, which remained on top and ultimately turned upside down and collapsed into itself.

At some point, we'll have an answer.

The house faces a certain end, in that the city wants it for the eventual Grant Road widening project.

City spokesman Graham said the project is at least 10 years off.

But eventually, when the home of her childhood is a pile of rubble, and the tree is cut down, if there's any solace at all, it's that there will be an answer to the riddle.

Contact reporter Rhonda Bodfield at rbodfield@azstarnet.com or 573-4243.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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