A towering century-old Canary Islands dragon tree is gone from Ocean Beach but will never be forgotten.
“We always took our daughter’s picture in front of that tree the first day of school,” said an almost tearful Denise Seymour, who lives on Long Branch Avenue.
But the Seymours were remodeling their home and the dragon tree crowding it just didn’t fit into their plans. But instead of cutting it down, the family opted to save the tree instead. They got movers out of Los Angeles to come down and spend the better part of 30 hours digging up and boxing the tree with heavy equipment, before whisking it away.
The Canary Islands dragon tree has since been transplanted to a nursery where it will be tended to until its new owner, Senna Tree Co. in Sun Valley, Calif., finds a new forever home for it.
“This tree is spectacular, it’s huge,” said John Mote Sr., who, along with his son John Mote Jr., runs the tree-moving business specializing in especially large specimens. “She (Seymour) was smart enough to see the value in it.”
Asked if Senna was a tree “matchmaker” finding proper adoptive homes for spared trees, Mote chuckled saying he’d never thought of it that way.
“It’s fun,” Mote said of moving trees as a profession. “It’s kind of like going on a safari where no animals get hurt. This is the fun part of the business. We transplant trees of any size. But due to economics, we focus more on the large mature trees. We have a nursery where we collect displaced trees, usually from development. We end up finding new homes for them. Over 36 years you move and save a lot of trees. That’s what we do.”
Pointing out their dragon tree was always too close to their home, which was originally built in 1919, Seymour needed a reputable company to do the job. She found one in Senna Tree Co. searching online. She discovered Senna was in the Guinness Book of World records for the largest tree successfully moved on Earth. That tree, a 916,000-pound Valley Oak with an 84 inches trunk diameter and 100 feet spread, was moved in 2002 and still thrives today.
The decision to reach out to Senna to move their tree then became something of a no-brainer. “I texted John and asked if he’d send someone down to look at the tree and he said he was sending his son,” Seymour said she found the subsequent tree packaging and removal process to be fascinating.
“The day after Labor Day they (Senna) came down and it was a four-day process with three guys they called their ‘A team,’” said Seymour of the undertaking, which involved the use of a huge backhoe and crane. “On the fourth day, they lifted the tree boxed in on all sides out as I watched from my deck upstairs. That tree weighed 16 tons. The head crown of the tree was 12 tons, 2,400 pounds. Then a semi-truck took the tree away on the final day.”
A large transplanted specimen tree like hers will likely be bought by “a very wealthy person,” said Seymour, who added she was told a tree of that size can resell in the $30,000 to $50,000 range, given how many hours, and how much heavy equipment, went into moving it.
Mote started his tree-removal business with just two experienced hands adding “we just grew year after year. We now do $5.25 million to $5.5 million in sales a year, and 70% of that is moving trees out of the way of development.”
Mote works all over California and Nevada and has handled lots of work for casinos. He said homes he finds for transplanted trees generally are with wealthy people. He noted some of those adopting such trees come from Hollywood.
“I’ve worked for a lot of movie actors and famous people and businesses,” Mote said. “I’ve found that people who have been blessed with a lot of wealth, really want to save as many trees as they can.”
said Seymour, “They took a huge gamble to save this tree moving it, and their gamble is going to pay off. I am so happy this tree will get to live on for hopefully another 100 years where it has the space it needs.”