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The life and times of Flo, Barton Springs’ most famous tree

Before the Austin community bids Flo adieu, let’s talk about why this tree means so much to locals.

2019 July 5th Flo from south side.jpeg

Flo, pictured on a July day in 2019.

Photo via City of Austin

After nearly 100 years of providing shade for generations of swimmers, Flo — the pecan tree that leans over Barton Springs Pool — will be removed from its perch this week.

In August, the tree was diagnosed with brittle cinder fungus, a disease known to cause wood decay and total tree failure. Despite the Parks and Recreation Department’s efforts to prolong Flo’s life, the tree will be removed on Thursday, Oct. 5 as a safety precaution.

Community members will say goodbye to Flo with a celebration of life today at 6:30 p.m., featuring a water blessing and eulogy speakers. Before Flo goes, we want to tell you a bit about the tree’s legacy.

A black and white photo of Flo, the tree over Barton Springs Pool

Earliest photos of Flo show that the tree has been leaning over Barton Springs Pool for almost 100 years.

Photo via the Dewey Mears Collection

The earliest known photos of Flo date back to ~1925, and the tree began leaning over the pool since at least 1928. Flo survived a flood — which washed away a small wooden bath house — in 1935 and soon gained a retaining wall with updated stairs in 1946.

ATX_FLotree

Flo was almost completely hollowed and filled on two different occasions.

Photo via Austin Parks and Recreation Department

Sometime between 1948 and 1958, Flo’s first supports were installed and the hollow cavity in its trunk was filled with bricks as a seal. In the mid-1970s, Flo was refilled with a combination of sand cement and pumice.

In anticipation of Flo’s eventual failure, a new tree was planted just uphill sometime in the 1970s or 1980s. Originally, the parks department planned to train the tree to lean, just like Flo. Decades later, Flo’s replacement tree is fully grown and healthy.

Once Flo is gone, the city plans to use the intact wood to memorialize the tree through creative reuse. In the meantime, the city is collecting memories and photos of Flo, which you can view here.

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