This historic pigeon-plum has survived countless hurricanes and the initial construction of the Vizcaya, the former villa of businessman James Deering. It is estimated to be 350 years old.
July 3, 2014
If trees could talk, they’d have a lot to tell us about the history of our nation. Among the longest lived plants on the planet, trees represent our past, present and even our future.
“Many trees have witnessed history and have the potential to see the achievements of future generations,” says R.J. Laverne, a board-certified master arborist at The Davey Tree Expert Company. “Trees chronicle the events of a region year after year. Their rings tell stories of droughts, floods and diseases,” he says. “They record evidence of lightning storms, heat waves, mild summers and bitter winters. With each layer of growth, they mark the passage of time and hold countless secrets within their trunks.”
Davey sponsors American Forests’ National Big Tree Program, founded in 1940 to feature big and often historic trees. The oldest national non-profit conservation organization in the country, American Forests protects and restores urban and rural forests.
“Some of the trees in the National Big Tree program are discovered by ambitious Big Tree Hunters who scour wilderness areas to find and measure them,” says Lea Sloan, vice president of communications for American Forests. “But many of these trees are in people’s backyards, farmyards, town commons or on street corners and have borne witness to the history of those places and generations of people for hundreds of years.”
Long-lived trees have experienced many historical events, says Laverne. “Trees are silent observers to world history,” he says. “For instance, the Battle Creek Oak in Michigan started growing around 1547, at the same time that King Edward VI of England neared the end of his reign, and it watched as European settlers crossed the Atlantic.”
Countless trees provide a connection for current generations to historical events.
“When trees associated with past events die, that can alter how we feel about that history,” says Laverne. “For instance, in 2011, Hurricane Irene unfortunately brought down the famous Arlington Oak that had stood there for 220 years. It oversaw John F. Kennedy’s gravesite and was part of the reason his family chose that area of Arlington for his final resting place. That tree provided shade to millions of mourners who traveled to grieve the loss of a president.”
The Arlington Oak tree fortunately lives on through three sapling descendants that were grown by Davey from acorns and cuttings of the historic oak. The trees will have their own history to share with future generations.
See the slideshow for photos and stories of some of our nation’s historic trees.
For more photos of historic trees go to: http://parade.condenast.com/313147/juliebawdendavis/celebrate-the-history-of-our-nations-trees/#
Julie Bawden-Davis is a garden writer and master gardener, who since 1985 has written for publications such as Organic Gardening, Wildflower, Better Homes and Gardens and The Los Angeles Times. She is the author of seven books, including Reader’s Digest Flower Gardening, Fairy Gardening, The Strawberry Story Series, and Indoor Gardening the Organic Way, and is the founder of HealthyHouseplants.com.