Photo by Christopher Elliott.

This is the Senator, the largest pond cypress in the U.S. and, at 3,500 years old, the fifth-oldest individual tree in the world. Or anyway, this was the Senator, because on Jan. 16, the Florida tree burned from the inside out.

Authorities initially ruled out arson, saying that friction or smoldering lightning damage may have started the fire. But they’ve now ruled it right back in, arresting 26-year-old Sara Barnes for lighting the Senator on fire while sitting inside it doing meth.

Police became suspicious when they found that Barnes had taken cell phone pictures of the tree fire in progress and uploaded them to her laptop. (Presumably they were suspicious cell phone pictures, or maybe she posted them on Facebook saying “look at this tree I burned.” Because I think probably anyone who just happened upon a giant flaming tree would probably whip out the camera.) When police confiscated her phone and computer, Barnes told investigators that she and a friend had been getting high inside the hollow tree and “lit a fire so they could see better.” The fire then destroyed the tree in a matter of hours.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

[vodpod id=Video.16160059&w=425&h=350&fv=affiliateSiteId%3D63272%26amp%3BwidgetId%3D507043%26amp%3Bwidth%3D515%26amp%3Bheight%3D408%26amp%3BeventCallbackFunc%3DIBSYS.widgets.kickApps.eventAdaptor%26amp%3Bjs%3D1]

Here are some of the Senator’s vital stats before the fire, a more robust list of accomplishments than most senators can boast of:

  • 125 feet tall
  • 17.5 feet in diameter
  • Between 3,400 and 3,600 years old
  • Over 5,100 cubic feet in volume
  • Fifth-oldest tree in the world
  • Oldest pond cypress in the world
  • Largest pond cypress in the country
  • Largest tree east of the Mississippi

Here are some of Sara Barnes’ vital stats:

  • Quite possibly in very, very big trouble.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations DOUBLED!