History of the Moreton Bay Fig Tree in Santa Barbara
It was July 4th, 1876. A young Santa Barbara girl was a given a mysterious seedling as a gift from an Aussie seaman at the Wharf. He was visiting Santa Barbara after a long Australian voyage. He told the young girl to plant the seed and see what happens.
The young girl planted the seed right away at a location on State Street. She watered the seed and made sure that it was covered by plenty of soil.
A year later the young girl left Santa Barbara and her precious tree behind. She asked her good friend, Adeline Crabb, to take care of her tree as best as she could. Adeline later transplanted the tree across town to where the tree now resides at Chapala and Montecito Streets.
Little did these girls know that the rich, fertile soil and bountiful California sunlight would help the tree grow to its fullest potential. In fact, the tree grew more than anyone’s expectations.
The tree is a Moreton Bay Fig Tree, native to Moreton Bay in Australia and is a cousin to the rubber tree family. It became the largest Moreton Bay Fig Tree of its kind in the United States. It is located off of Highway 101 in a well-manicured park in Santa Barbara, right next to the Amtrak train station.
The tree’s measurements are astounding with its crown spreading out at a length of 198 feet. The trees total height is approximately 80 feet. The trunk of the tree measures 12.5 feet in diameter. Its massive canopy can shade up to 10,400 people on a hot summer day.
Many people make the journey to see the tree.
spreading an enormous canopy
with dinosaur roots and limbs
with muscle made of steel
taking over a neighborhood
like a rich entrepreneur.
a brown-green paradise
shielding me from the sun
i hide in your creases
comfort in your folds
rest my head against your belly.
i’ve taken lovers to you
to consummate our desire
carved our initials in your wood
became part of your history
ingrained in your romantic narrative.
from an Australian seaman
to a little girl planting your seed
you’ve become an energy source
of communal devotion and friendship
at Montecito and Chapala Streets.
i introduced you to my daughter
to see what myth's been told
you stood there proudly
leaves fluttering like butterflies
as she posed in your arms.
i think of you when i visit unfamiliar woods
how you spread so much further
how your meaning, genealogy grows deeper
as the others are just pulp and timber
you’re a true miracle of nature.
some days i look upon you sadly
with jealousy and envy in my heart
knowing that you'll always remain
vibrant and full of life
long after i go.
Big Tree in Santa Barbara by Mark Tulin
© 2017 Mark Tulin