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UBC Reports | Vol. 49 | No. 9 | Sep. 4, 2003

Saving Stumpy

Chainsaw trim preserves ancient cedar

By Michelle Cook

Nobody remembers exactly how “Stumpy” got to UBC, but the massive slice of western red cedar has been a mainstay of the Biological Sciences building for more than half a century.

Stumpy, so nicknamed by admiring graduate students, is thought to be one of the last remaining cross-sections of its kind. It was probably felled in the 1950s in the old-growth rainforests of coastal British Columbia when it was 775 years old, and brought to campus to serve as a giant teaching aid. What is certain is that the magnificent specimen languished somewhat in recent years in a dusty display case outside the building’s main lecture hall. It was only when planned renovations to the space threatened to turn the tree slice into a pile of firewood that the good folks in the Biological Sciences building rallied to give Stumpy a new lease on life.

Associate Prof. Gary Bradfield of the botany department spearheaded the drive to save the cedar -- no easy task when the cause in question weighed 585 kilograms and measured an unwieldy two metres in diameter.

After some discussion, the decision was made to thin Stumpy down. Enter Les Jozsa, one of UBC’s celebrated Sopron foresters and chief carver of the Forestry faculty’s anniversary gate. Now retired, Jozsa arrived on campus one radiant day in early August with a chain saw 1.4 metres long and sized up the job at hand. With a small crowd of loyal supporters looking on, volunteers used a sturdy trolley to wheel Stumpy from the lecture hall into the summer sun.

Steadily wielding the giant chain saw, Jozsa carved the cross-section into smaller pieces. As the first slice slid free in a gentle flurry of sawdust, those watching raised a cheer to celebrate this rare gift from nature. You see, Stumpy, despite having spent the first 200 years of its life overshadowed by larger trees nearby, is as close to perfect as a cedar can be. No rot. No decay. Not even any evidence of pest or fire damage.

A newly svelte Stumpy will make its debut this fall in a place of honour outside the revamped Biological Sciences
lecture hall where future generations of students and researchers can benefit from it.

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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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