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Seminole Beacon
A champion tree grows in Seminole
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SEMINOLE – For now, the little green buttonwood sapling seems ordinary enough. But just wait, this sapling, planted with great ceremony at St. Petersburg College, Thursday, is going to be a historic whopper someday.

In truth, this little champion was cloned from a tree specimen that can grow to more than 50 feet high and almost 15 feet around. Its crown spread alone can be 68 feet. This tree was grown in Pinellas County and cloned from the National Champion Green Buttonwood in Palm Beach. It is the largest tree of its kind in the continental United States and creates a “living library” of trees for future generations.

This tree planting and dedication ceremony was done in honor of Congressman C.W. Bill Young. “Congressman Young, you and your staff, are true champs for our community,” said Dr. Judy Yates of the Pinellas County Extension Services.

The planting was done to recognize Young’s efforts toward improving the quality of life in the county. The sapling was planted outside the C.W. Bill Young University Partnership Center, St. Petersburg College Campus.

Dr. Carl Kuttler Jr., president of St. Petersburg College, said this tree would fit in swimmingly with the institution’s future environmental-friendly plans.

“This will begin a group of trees that will start a park preserve,” Kuttler said. “It will be integrated into our community along with our science lab efforts.”

Terry Mock, executive director of the Champion Tree Project International, spoke on behalf of the exquisite trees.

“They are the icons of stability. They sustain themselves and enhance living conditions for other life forms,” Mock said. “We have much to learn from these trees.”

“St. Petersburg College is a leader in partnerships,” said Young. “This is a good place to live, work and get educated. This is a tremendous honor.”

The tree itself was sponsored by Westenberger Tree Service and Pinellas Technical Education Center, the tree’s grower. Taking cuttings from the oldest, largest buttonwood trees is the beginning of restoring some of what nature and man have, over time, destroyed.

The planting was done in partnership with the University of Florida/IFAS-Pinellas County Extension; Florida Botanical Gardens; Champion Tree Project International and St. Petersburg College. The Florida West Coast Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Council accomplished this quite special tree planting.
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