"The Big Tree," the oldest tree east of the Mississippi, was reduced to little more than a pile of ash this week. But unlike most forest fires, this tree burned from the inside out, leaving Florida officials struggling to explain the fire's cause.
The Central Florida landmark was an estimated 3,500 years old when it burned down on Monday. Officials have finally been able to officially rule out arson as a cause, but that ruling raises more questions than it answers.
The Florida Division of Forestry has a number of possible theories. It's possible that the fire was caused by a weeks old lightning strike or that the tree's swaying in the wind generated a spark.
The loss of the prized cypress is somewhat devastating to the Florida community where it used to sit. It was the main attraction at Big Tree Park, generating tourism revenue for the area. Park officials are considering building a memorial to the lost tree.
[Image credit: inkdroid]
More from Tecca: