Salvaging the Biggest Cherry Tree in Iowa | Urban Logging

We arrived at a beautiful, hilltop property basically in the middle of the city.  A lot of the damage from the prior year’s storm was still in place which gave a much better appreciation of how the rest of the city probably looked a few months ago.

This white oak made the power of the wind very apparent.  3’+ diameter just snapped in two.  In the background, more downed trees can be seen.

Along the back property line, the highest point of the property, we found the cherry tree and were shocked by it’s size.  The pictures didn’t convey the gargantuan scale of this tree.  Josh measured a few diameters.  At the base 4′; 20′ up the limbs were over 24″.  That size alone would be a big cherry tree and these were just limbs.

BJ (Cedar Valley Arborist) and his crew arrived with their grapple truck to assist in material handling.  BJ and Josh worked as a team to dismantle the tree.

There was a lot of tree to work through.  Essentially there were 4 main stems.  The trunk split at a crotch and a few feet above that, it split again.  There was also an Osage tree that uprooted next to it.

This areal shot gives a great look at the scale of the tree.  The grapple is fully extended to its maximum reach of 33′ and I’m just a dot on the lawn.  From here we can also see how the tree stood right on the property line with more damaged trees further down the property line (top center of image)

The last cut before working on the base.  This massive crotch section will eventually be loaded into the bed of my truck.

Next Josh starts working on separating the trunk from the root ball.  There is a pocket of dirt at the top so he starts the cut with his saw to clear the area out.

Next Josh starts cutting through the trunk with an 880 with a 36″ bar that BJ lent to us.

That saw’s bar isn’t long enough to go all the way through so the trunk needs to be cut from both sides.  I grabbed my saw and cleared out the material that Josh couldn’t reach from his side of the tree leaving just a bit on the bottom which Josh could cut, finishing up the cut.

With the trunk disconnected, BJ started working the trunk away from the root ball.

Josh removed this section to reduce the log’s weight.  It was already difficult for the grapple to move this log so any reduction in weight will help with loading it.

The diameter of the log was too great for the grapple to grasp it so we switched to lifting with chains.  The grapple couldn’t lift the log fully but could get one end off the ground.  With one end suspended, Josh quickly backed his trailer under the log before the hydraulics on the grapple bled down.

Josh’s trailer has a hydraulic dovetail so with the log resting on it, he could raise it to be level with the rest of the trailer bed.  With the log chained, BJ could manipulate and drag it into position over the axels.

BJ loaded a few logs onto Josh’s trailer in front of the main trunk and then started loading my truck and trailer.

With everything loaded up, we could hit the road and begin the trip back.

Back home, the main trunk was laughably easy to unload with the telehandler.  We finished unloading Josh around 9pm.

The next day, I could finish things up: sealing the end grain of all the logs, getting them stacked in the pile, and unloading my trailer.

First into the pile were the smaller logs that were on Josh’s trailer.

Next I could bring the trunk back the pile; sneaking all 13′ through a 12′ gate opening.

Next I could unload this crazy crotch section from the bed of my truck.

Lastly are the pair of logs that were on my trailer.

As I was showing this pick up on Instagram, many people were asking if the tree was a state record.  After getting back I did some further investigating.  The state of Iowa has a big tree program which catalogs the biggest trees in the state.  The list of the trees and instructions for measuring can be found on the DNR’s website: Since the tree was already on the ground and now cut up, I had to do some estimating from my video to get the height of the tree and the crown spread.  The circumference at breast height could still be measured directly from the log.  Based on circumference, the tree was bigger than the 3 listed in the registry but the estimated height and crown spread came up short.  An estimate of the ring count puts this tree at 80-100 years old; really old for a cherry tree.

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