Monday, January 7, 2013

The Amazing Bur Oak

Having observed trees in communities across Nebraska for many years, I've come realize that nothing beats the bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa) for beauty and survivability. It is truly an amazing tree. This native species is incredibly tough and adaptable, being able to grow on a wide range of soil conditions and tolerant of severe drought. We should plant the heck out of this tree!!
Bur oak along a street in Kearney.

In my home town of Kimball, I can probably count on my fingers and toes the number of bur oaks that have been planted. They all look wonderful! And yet the ugly Siberian elm dominates the landscape. Ugh! Kimball is certainly not unique in this regard. Indeed, bur oak is under planted across the state, and it gets worse the further west we go.
Bur Oak in North Platte.
Who says a bur oak is a slow grower? This one in North Platte is just a few decades old.
We need to plant more bur oaks - lots of them! Of course we should strive for species diversity across a community and we wouldn't want bur oak to outnumber all other species. But we have a LONG way to go before would ever be planting too many of these majestic trees. Indeed we could plant bur oaks until the cows came home and we still wouldn't have too many. This is partly because the cows come home more regularly than we give them credit for. But still...
Bur oak is beautiful throughout the year.

We should plant more bur oaks because they are tough, adaptable, ruggedly beautiful, long-lived, tolerant of our neglect, drought tolerant, ice-resistant, wide-spreading, shade-casting, climbable, dark green, naturalistic, loaded with wildlife, a friend of the squirrel, deer resistant, fire resistant, moderately flamboyant, tough like our forebears, poetic, inspiring, gracious, giving, fragrant, long-lived, friendly,... (I could add superlatives all day long!). More importantly, they are not Siberian elm, or green ash, or honeylocust, or silver maple, or any number of less deserving trees. They are bur oak: the king of our hardwood trees. Long live the bur oak!

The majestic bur oak "Josephine" in Petersburg Illinois. Abe Lincoln may have slept here!

Bur oaks can live for centuries - and will likely be the longest lived trees in our communities.

1 comment:

  1. An ancient bur oak at the bottom of a pasture on my dad's farm was the first tree I remember being in awe of. Its limbs stretched out parallel to the ground for what seemed like forever to a little kid's eyes. It's still there today, and is probably just beginning its third century of life. Incredible trees, those bur oaks!