For over a century, its wide, magnificent embrace sheltered book-lovers and picnics alike. For over a century, it watched on as its community reckoned with the ravages of overseas war, depression and the onward march of progress and change.
For over a century, as generation after generation passed it by, it stood immovable as a mountain; the one implacable constant in a quiet village that overtime became a bustling town.
In a split second, however, it was reduced to nothing; its singular demise occasioned by an out-of-control B-double truck raging through Buninyong's Warrenheip Street roundabout last Friday afternoon.
The accident, it bears emphasising, marked the second involving a truck at the notorious intersection in the space of a month.
It might, of course, be said that a 'tree is just a tree'. But this was no ordinary tree.
For years, the statuesque Chinese Elm solemnly stood at the entrance to Buninyong's Avenue of Honour, venerating the memory of one Charles Alexander Way, a 27-year-old soldier felled on the Western Front.
It was also an unusually rare variety of the Chinese Elm; a prepossessing specimen so special it was listed on both the National Trust of Australia register of significant trees and City of Ballarat's exceptional tree register.
Its loss, to the Buninyong community, is therefore profound.
"Losing this tree is a tragedy," said Buninyong resident Richard Patterson, who has observed the tree for some 30 years. "It was a heritage tree; a unique tree and it was well-loved."
"It was always the last deciduous tree to come into leaf, right at the end of the November - you could set your watch by it. It was absolutely remarkable."
It's a sentiment shared by Lorraine Powell, vice-president of the Friends of Buninyong Botanic Gardens.
"The tree stood central, watching the progress of the village for 100 years," she said. "It was unique not only in terms of its national trust status, but as a species," she added, referencing its uncommon bark.
The community's grief at the loss of this majestic tree, however, is matched by equal concern at what might occur the next occasion yet another truck seemingly loses its brakes on its descent down the Midland Highway towards the town.
For one thing, situated behind the place of the fallen tree stands another beautiful heritage listed tree, a Chinese Exeter. For another, there's the irreducible danger posed to human life.
"Just look at how busy the roundabout is," Mr Patterson said, "the dangers are just unbearable."
"People used to sit under the [Chinese Elm] tree on a regular basis - the reality is [that] it's an absolute miracle no one was killed.
"We need a by-pass, but we're only likely to get one once we've had three people killed - that's the truth."
Both Mr Patterson and Ms Powell said the wider community was heavily in favour of a by-pass as a long-term solution, whatever its route, but believe immediate short-term measures to reduce the risk of more truck accidents are sorely needed.
"We need earlier speed restrictions and warnings of the decline," Ms Powell said. "All that's there now is a sign for trucks to put their air brakes on because of the noise."
"Something must be done, because inevitably if it can happen again, it will happen again."
The community will soon convene a town hall meeting to discuss means of addressing the risk posed by the constant flow of heavy trucks through the town's centre.
In the meantime, there are already plans afoot to salvage what remains of the premier Chinese Elm, with a view to repurposing the wood into something that forever honours the tree's memory.
"What you can do with elm is a bit limited," said Paul Ryle, a Buninyong-based furniture maker who specialises in heritage wood.
"But," he added, referencing a beautiful sculpture made out of a once-glorious white oak tree in Melbourne's Botantic gardens , "I think there will be just enough for an artisan bench or something similar."
"I want it to be something special - more in the way of a memorial to the tree."
It might be that trees are prone to anthropomorphism. Perhaps we readily assign meaning to them when there is none. Perhaps trees are just trees.
Whatever the case, it's clear the Buninyong community is determined to remember the fallen tree - and not unlike the way the tree itself once honoured the sacrifice of one Charles Alexander Way.
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