This Old Tree with Doug Still
Tree Story Shorts II (Transcript)
Season 1, Episode 13
Published March 26, 2023
Doug Still: [00:05]
Welcome again to This Old Tree. The show features heritage trees and the human stories behind them. I'm your host, Doug Still, and this time I've got another edition of Tree Story Shorts for you. This is when I take a step back and let listeners submit their own stories about trees that have special meaning to them. I love that you all keep submitting these, and I want to share them on the show.
This time, I have nine fantastic and touching stories you are going to love. If I had to pick a thematic thread connecting them, I would say it is loss and memory, and each writer presents this a bit differently. However, these short stories are so rich. Let me know if you pick up on a different theme. I hope you enjoy these as much as I did. So, without further ado, here are Tree Story Shorts.
[This Old Tree theme]
Gil Reavill: [01:15]
Hello, Doug. It's Gil Reavill. I grew up with a 40-foot apple tree in the backyard of our family home. This was in small town, Central Wisconsin. I wish I could tell you the specific species. I queried my sisters about it, but that precise fact seems lost in history. We went through all the possibilities. Was it a Blenheim Orange maybe? Duchess of Oldenburg? Maiden Blush? We don't know.
I do know that the tree represented a central icon of my childhood. I sometimes dream about it to this day. My mother was a longtime kindergarten teacher and also a dedicated home cook, and every season we would gather the tree's very generous harvest. The green and reddish fruit were small and flavorful, but not particularly sweet. My mother called them cooking apples. She canned homemade applesauce, with the family enjoying the fruits of her labor for the entire year.
For myself though, the tree served an entirely different purpose as a sort of convenient improvised jungle gem. The trunk probably measured 25 or 30 inches DBH. At the five-foot mark, a seam suggested evidence of an early graft, and apples from one side of the tree were subtly different from those on the other. This split in the trunk was at a perfect kid height, allowing easy access for climbing.
Early on, I was able to scramble into every area of the tree, into both of the asymmetrical branch networks. At the top of one was a thick horizontal crook that served as a sort of hammock. I could lounge there, close to the sky, largely invisible from earthbound humans. As a kid, I was an inveterate reader, so there are pictures of me in my apple tree aerie engrossed in a book. I remember being called down to the dinner table but leaving books up there so I could get to them later.
This spot was one of my favorite summer hangouts throughout my younger days, from grade school up until junior high. After that, seduced by the charms of the automobile, I put away childish things. Since I've now become a parent myself, I shudder retrospectively about my habitual tree climbing as a youngster. I never fell out, but I could have. I honor my brave mother and father for allowing my constant excursions.
But I think this solitary backyard apple tree represented a refuge, providing vital and necessary aid to my early physical development, yeah, but also helping to foster my imagination. The view from up there provided perspective. My ground-level problems and preoccupations appeared puny. I could dream freely. Recreational climbing, not applesauce, was, for me, the tree's true harvest.
Doug Still: [04:25]
That first story was from Gil Reavill. Gil is an author, screenwriter, and journalist who lives in the New York City area, coming to it by way of being born in Wisconsin and educated in Colorado. He is married to an arborist. You may remember Jean Zimmerman from the first Tree Story Short episode, and co-host of the Charter Oak. But Gil says he recently flunked a trivia quiz that asked whether Trees poet, Joyce Kilmer, was female or male. But anyway, I loved his story that looks back on the secret places of childhood reading and the joys of tree climbing.
The next piece is by Jim Voorhies, a retired grounds manager and entomologist from upstate New York. No doubt about this one. It's about the loss of a tree, specifically a leaning pine on a college campus. It's also about the power of trees as symbols and how that sometimes manifested in unexpected ways.
Jim Voorhies: [05:24]
Greetings, fellow tree lovers. My story is from the Adirondack Mountains in the very northern part of New York State on the campus of Paul Smith's College. I am an alum of the college class of 1972.
The story begins in the late 1850s when Paul Smith purchased approximately 50 acres along the shore of Lower St. Regis Lake. Paul was to build a hotel for hunters and fishermen, which he guided for, and their families. Eventually, it was known as a resort for the rich and famous. More and more lands were cleared and structures built. But at some point, the land surrounding a very majestic, very leaning white pine, Pinus strobus. Either it had to be spared or removed. Paul Smith decided to keep the tree and several other very mature white pines near his hotel ground.
Moving along, in 1930, the hotel suffered a devastating fire that, along with the depression, the hotel was never built to its original glory. Paul and Lydia's son, Phelps Smith, inherited everything. Upon his death, his will dictated that all his wealth, including property, shall be used to start a college of arts and science, and would forever be called Paul Smith's College.
The college opened in 1946. In 1947, the student council sponsored a contest for a college logo, a college symbol. A sketch of the Leaning Pine was submitted, and it won. It kind of stuck as the logo of the college. Soon the leaning pine image was copied on everything. College stationery in the yearbook, on hats, shirts, coats everywhere. You could not possibly come on campus without seeing it immediately. It was very close to the entrance of the college. As you entered the college, the tree leaned to the left. It was absolutely an icon, right from the beginning when the school opened.
On November 12, 1971, a couple of disgruntled students chopped down the Leaning Pine very early in the morning. Several hours later, I was standing right next to that college symbol while it was laying on the ground, in disbelief. It was like, "Why would you do this?" At first, the culprits were a mystery, but a few months later, a student confessed. The whole story is every forestry student had to take this Introduction to Forestry course, and part of it was learning how to take care of your axe, how to sharpen it properly, some things on the handle of the axe and you were graded on it. Historically, the grades were not very high. So, some folks got their axes graded. They didn't like the grades, and they showed the school that their axe [laughs] was adequate and could chop down a tree.
Today, the Leaning Pine, the original symbol of the college, is still the college symbol. A disc cut from the trunk before the log was sent to a sawmill was saved by the college. The disc has recently been refurbished and is displayed in the college library with wall plaques adjacent to it identifying a timeline of historic events, utilizing the growth rings to mark those years. It's referred to as dendrochronology. The disc from the Leaning Pine tells the story of its birth in 1690, and we know its last growth ring was 1971. So, this famous and historic leaning white pine was 281 years old. I do feel fortunate that I've seen it alive, if even for just over a year while I was a student at the college. And that concludes my tree story.
Doug Still: [09:49]
Thanks to Jim for that bit of lore from Paul Smith's College at the time. That must have been shocking to all Smittys everywhere. But I love that the symbolism of the Leaning Pine lives on. Jim was inducted into the Paul Smith's Hall of Fame in 2022 for his support and commitment to the school, and he did extensive research about the Leaning Pine incident, featured in a video called “Smitty Story Hour, The Leaning Pine.” Go ahead and YouTube it if you're interested in hearing more.
Next up is Georgia Silvera Seamans, an urban ecologist and founder of Local Nature Lab whose home base is in Washington Square Park in New York City. Local Nature Lab has a mission to monitor, educate, support, and advocate for biodiversity and local nature in urban areas. When she's not spending time in the park noticing nature, she's hosting the podcast, Your Bird Story, which centers the voices of everyday people's encounters and relationships with wild birds in cities. It's great. Please check out Your Bird Story. But this story is about some Kwanzan cherry trees near Washington Square that everyone loved.
Georgia Silvera Seamans: [11:04]
Hi, my name is Georgia, and this is my Tree Short, which is about a row of cherry trees in Greenwich Village, New York City. If you're not familiar with this species, Prunus serrulata, cultivar ‘Kwanzan.’ The flowers are cotton candy pink, and big - I'm talking like "Almost palm of your hand big,” - and many petals. You might see this cultivar listed as Kanzan, K-A-N-Z-A-N. But when I learned this species, the cultivar was Kwanzan.
New Yorkers don't stroll. We definitely hurry along sidewalks and pretty much any other place that you see us. But the spring flowers and equally stunning fall color of Kwanzan cherries at this location caused people to slow down, to stop, to notice, to take photos. The trees were an unlisted landmark in the neighborhood. Everyone in the neighborhood knew about them, and visitors and tourists were wowed, just like we were.
In 2016, the seven Kwanzans were removed as part of a mega construction project. The community loudly pushed for these trees to be transplanted. At the time, an arborist hired by the institution whose project called for the removal of these trees assessed that only three of the trees would survive or actually said "might" survive transplantation. The institution in charge of the building project said they couldn't find suitable locations, and so, with a permit from the city, removed all seven trees.
Now reportedly, the trees were donated to a nonprofit that recycles and repurposes wood. It was only after hearing that the institution needed a city permit for removal that I realized that the trees had been growing on public property. I wish I had measured them so I could tell you about their ecosystem services, their regulating benefits. But to be honest, the significance of these cherries, which are sterile and didn't attract or don't attract insects, was cultural. People took joy in their seasonal changes. I can't believe I just said that, because my gripe with tulips from tulip bulbs is that they are poor in environmental benefits. But I guess you can now see my tree bias.
Thanks so much for listening to this Tree Short.
Doug Still: [14:17]
Georgia, it's always tough to see a tree removed that you have affection for, never mind a whole row of them in densely populated New York City, where they are so needed. Environmental benefits or no, these trees clearly lifted people's spirits with their beauty. Thanks for sharing your story and for everything you do to raise appreciation for nature in the Big Apple.
Speaking of urban landscapes, our attention now shifts to the islands of Macau, a city and special administrative region of China in the Pearl River Delta by the South China Sea. It is the most densely populated region in the world and a gambling mecca. Our storyteller is Chi Ngai Chan, a staff scientist at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center of Harvard Medical School in Boston. Chi grew up in Macau and remembers that it wasn't all built up.
Chi Ngai Chan: [15:11]
My name is Chi, and I was born in the city of Macau in the 1980s. Back then, it was a Portuguese colony which would be returned to China in 1999. Like Hong Kong next door, it was a western foothold in Communist China and is heavily urbanized. Unlike Hong Kong, its main industry was, and still is, the gambling industry. Trees are few and far between amongst the concrete jungle, no matter how much the local primary school textbooks praise the virtues of trees and greenery.
But in the two outer islands away from Macau City, you can still find forests and nature. My favorite spot was a mangrove forest in a sheltered bay between the two islands. Slow ocean currents and tides kept the forest fed and brought in all kinds of strange aquatic life and elegant shorebirds.
During lunch breaks in my primary school, my dad will pick me and my sister up to have lunch next to this alien yet beautiful landscape. I spent many happy afternoons counting crabs, muscicapas, and herons while eating noodles with my family.
Alas, the forest was living on borrowed time. The tides that fed the forest were slowly cut off by land reclamation nearby, and one day, the whole forest turned black. Overnight, people suspected that the forest was poisoned to hasten its demise so that a new casino could be built on top of it, but no one was held responsible.
Staring at this black mass of death, I was both livid and hopeless since I could not change the situation. Ironically, when the casino was built, they turned the swarm where the mangrove forest used to be into an artificial lake and added nonnative water lilies to beautify it. The tourists would never know what was lost in the name of progress.
Doug Still: [17:32]
Chi, when you first told me about the mangroves at Macau, you asked if it was appropriate for this show. I answered “It absolutely is.” Some stories are hard to hear and make us angry, but we need to hear it, because we need those vital mangrove communities to stem the effects of climate change and to protect wildlife and our oceans. Maybe by telling what can happen and how easily they might disappear, we can add to the growing alarm over the disappearance of mangrove forests worldwide.
It's about time to hear about some living trees, and contributor, Fran Hutton, takes us there, to Western Pennsylvania specifically. Fran is a mostly retired GIS consultant and cartographer. She loves to sing and travel, especially to places where she can see the forests and wildlife. For fun, she maps her journeys as a cartographer would. And she's known to practice her music in the woods too. I know her as a singer in a group my husband belongs to, the award-winning mixed a capella chorus, Voices United.
Hi, my name is Fran and I want to tell you about the largest white oak tree I have ever seen. In 1969, when I was 12, my parents moved us to Indiana County, Pennsylvania, 2 miles up a long hill from the village of Rochester Mills in Grant Township. The 40 acres we eventually purchased was a mix of old farm fields, wild woods, and tree plantations. Our driveway was a long lane off Nashville Road that went past the house, past a large barn, and then turned uphill at the barn and curved into the woods.
The first time we walked up that path to its end, we saw the oak. In 1969, it was over 13ft in circumference. It had huge branches that spread out wide enough to lie down on. This magnificent white oak dwarfed all the other large old trees around. It was also widely known in the area. True or not, we were told by some of the locals that we had really good water since that oak grew where it needed a lot of water, and our springhouse was directly downhill from the oak and our water was pure and abundant.
My brothers used the tree as a readymade deer stand during hunting season. But I would bring my books or writing into the woods and lean against the tree and ponder its long history. The local people, some farmers, some descendants of the Indian tribes who had lived there, and old loggers who had worked at the logging camp on the property, said that the tree was well over 300 years old. I wondered how this tree had survived not being nibbled away by the deer, not being cleared for farmland in the 1700s, or for lumbering in the 1800s. I wondered if the oak's roots had been shaken by the Conestoga wagons that passed by on a nearby trail that went west. I wished I could have seen all the history the oak had seen.
Whenever I visited my parents in later years, I always hiked up to see that dear old tree. The last time, I hiked up the trail, past the barn, up the hill in the woods to pay homage to the old tree was in 2019. This tree helped grow my love of history, geography, and cartography, which had become my profession. The property was sold in 2019 and I hope that the oak still stands and brings joy and inspiration to more generations.
Doug Still: [21:23]
I'm sure the old oak is still there, Fran. Sounds like it could have been a boundary tree, marking the edge of a property or a field. I understand Pennsylvania has a lot of boundary trees that were kept for this reason. If you ever make a visit back, please let us know.
The next story is from Brandon Namm, a tree inspector for the city of Portland, Oregon, and a private consulting arborist with Laurelin Tree Consulting. Sit back and listen to him tell us about a wonderful redwood tree.
Brandon Namm: [21:55]
My name is Brandon Namm, and I am an arborist living in Portland, Oregon. My favorite tree is a coast redwood that grows along the Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California.
Growing up, my parents, sisters, and I would camp at the state park every year. It was a long trip up from Southern California and our favorite secret swimming spot on the Eel River was always our first place to stop to wash up. To find the spot, we looked for a very large redwood tree growing immediately next to the avenue. Its heartwood is burnt out, leaving a large entrance and cavity called the Goose Pen. You can see the Goose Pen only when approaching the tree from one side, making it an even more secret spot. It is truly a giant pillar of a tree and is large enough for us to have privacy to change and get ready to go down to the river.
A short walk through the woods leads down to the Eel River where we spent many afternoons swimming and playing. We even actually left the dog there a couple of times. It is such a special place that bringing new people to the spot was a very big deal. I can remember the first time showing my wife which tree marks our family's secret place and leading her to the river. I didn't ask my younger sister's permission, and I think I'm still in trouble.
In 2021, my father died of Parkinson's disease. We were always very close. Growing up, people commented on how much we looked alike and I think we both took it as a compliment. He was a compassionate and caring father who always had time to listen to me. Our time spent together hiking, playing baseball, reading, and just sitting quietly in the car during road trips are small moments I will never forget.
When my father died, it was the heart of COVID, and we never ended up having a big memorial service. But in October of that year, our family met at Humboldt Redwoods State Park and spread my dad's ashes in the Eel River. Afterward, I kept a bit of them to spread inside the big redwood and to have my own moment with him. My wife is now pregnant with our first child. And I can't wait to point out the big redwood with the Goose Pen that leads to the swimming spot. I'm terribly sad to know my dad will never meet them, but it is a comfort to know we can always visit the tree growing along the Avenue of the Giants and know he will be there to guide the way.
Doug Still: [24:40]
Wow. Thank you, Brandon, for being willing to share that emotional story about you and your dad. That coastal redwood clearly means a lot to you and your family. The love comes through, so thank you, and good luck to you and your wife with a new baby.
Eva Monheim is a speaker, consultant, garden coach, designer, writer, photographer, and co-host of The Plant a Trillion Trees Podcast with Hal Rosner. I'm a regular listener to their podcast, the purpose of which is to encourage tree planting and proper tree care for our urban forests, as well as to promote the importance of established trees and their benefits. Do check it out. She is also the author of Shrubs and Hedges: Discover, Grow, and Care for the World's Most Popular Plants, a book that was inspired by her years of teaching woody plants as an assistant professor at Temple University in the department of landscape architecture and horticulture, Eva took time from her packed schedule to record this story about a European beech tree that she saw a change over time.
Eva Monheim: [25:48] Hello, my name is Eva Monheim, and I'm going to tell you a little bit about a European beech or Fagus sylvatica. When I was working at the Ambler campus of Temple University, I was a professor of landscape architecture and horticulture, and I taught woody plants. The one plant that I taught was European beech. This tree that we had was quite old, about 150 years old, and it was beautiful. It looked like it had elephant skin. That's classic for the tree.
One of the primary ways it reproduces is to lay its branches down to the ground if you let it. In this case, there was one branch that was allowed to touch the ground and root. Over time, this branch eventually rooted, and it stood up. That's classic when once the new progeny is independent, it will actually be vertical rather than horizontal. At that same time, there was construction of a new building and a garden, and they brought in a big truck, and it had stone, and they parked it right on the old parent's root. If you know anything about Fagus sylvatica, they do not like compressed roots. They like to be undisturbed.
So, after the truck had left, the tree started to decline, and it declined over a period of about five years. During that time, I would have meditation classes that I would teach, and students would come to this tree and touch it and do meditations on it. Over time, this tree declined and started to rot, and then there was an animal living in it. To watch the process of this old tree giving its energy to this young progeny was fascinating because you could actually see how the energy was leaving the parent tree and going into the young tree and providing for it.
I never could figure out when I was going to England, I've lived in England and saw these tree rings in England, and I realized that those tree rings were created by a solitary European beech that had laid its branches all the way around itself to create a ring. From that parent, the parent provides the food for the young ones. In this case when the parent died, the limb was severed from the parent and the young tree continued to grow.
More recently, there was a tornado that went through the campus and I'm not sure if the tree is still standing, but just to know that the parent was unselfish in giving its energy to the young tree really amazed me. When you see a tree ring, trees where you think that they're purposely planted may not be purposely planted, depending on what type of tree is creating the tree ring. In the case of Fagus sylvatica, they create their own tree rings. So, when you see something like that in Europe and you think about it, or you look at the structures of the trees, you can pretty much tell whether they are the offspring of the parent and they're not purposely planted. So, consider that when you're looking at and observing nature in its best. Of course, I think this is one of the best stories of an unselfish parent giving to its child.
Doug Still: [29:50]
I'm starting to sense another theme today having to do with parents and children, both human and tree, and passing on to the next generation. Thank you, Eva, for your observations of the beach tree over time and finding the poetry in it.
Along these same lines, I'd like to introduce Leena Chapagain. Leena is a botanist and currently a gardener in the historic garden at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington DC. I had the pleasure of meeting Leena on a recent trip to Washington and learned that she is originally from Nepal, where her father was a forest officer and also owned a private tree nursery. She has a story about the Indian rosewood tree - the Latin name is Dalbergia sissoo - and the importance of ecological restoration, with a surprise family twist.
Leena Chapagain: [30:41] Hello, my name is Leena Chapagain. I'm a botanist. I did a master's degree in botany. I have my qualification done and education done in Nepal from [unintelligible 00:30:56] University. And then I did. My master's from Bangkok. Asian Institute of Technology Thailand. Nowadays I'm working as a gardener at Dumbarton Oaks, DC.
Today, I'm going to talk briefly about my favorite tree specimen. Actually, there are so many trees which are favorite to me, but my favorite tree is Dalbergia sissoo. Its common English name is Indian rosewood tree. It's a hardwood, and it's native to South Asia. Commonly found in Nepal, India, Afghanistan. This plant-- this species is hardwood, and not very moderately-- but the fast-growing tree. Especially, it is used for timber, used for making furniture, windows, doors, house. Compared to other hardwood trees, it is very fast growing. People love to use it and then people love to plant these spaces in their property. For ecological purposes, we use it for erosion control. It has a drought tolerance, drought resistance, and it can grow very nicely in the riverine area, in the weather log area. Also, it can tolerate, it can thrive. So, it is a great tree. It grows up to 40 to 60 ft height and forms a very nice canopy.
This is my favorite plant because I am somewhat emotionally attached to these species because my first job is start long back, I will take you. But when my first job started, it was U.N.-funded, U.N.-supported project. We had massive deforestation because of different regions in the eastern part of Nepal and there was a lot of flood and then the people settlements problems and then natural forest was declining. I luckily got a chance to work in that project. Our role was to cover the area eroded area that deforested area, make it naturally, and then let it to grow, let it to make that ecosystem balance as soon as possible. So, what we have to do? We have to choose the past growing spaces as well as, then there was a lot of erosion going on, gully erosion, that also we needed to control. So, Dalbergia sissoo, we picked.
So, we picked this one. About 25,000 plants we planted within a two months, about 10km of periphery, the water bank, the river bank area, and the roadside. And why I was emotionally attached with this plant, I will just briefly tell you. When I was 10, 11 years old we had a forest nursery back home. I used to work with my dad. Up to midnight were working, putting the polybag, the plant in the polybag, and the stump cutting and were preparing it and the plant got ready within four to five years by the time I was 11, 12 years old, when I was in college and start my job, almost 20 years old.
And I got that project and we got the demand from the project, from the office like, "We need 25,000 plants. Can you deliver? This much height." We got that plant from my dad's nursery! And I was working there and my dad started to cry when he got the bid for the project and he started to cry. Same time, I was crying too. That is the very emotional attachment with that plant. And then in the same time, it became my favorite plant too.
Doug Still: [35:40]
Honestly, I can't stop smiling every time I play back Leena's moving story from Nepal. I feel transported there. She became a US citizen in 2013, but I can see her love of plants and ecology came from her dad back home. Keep up the good work Leena and I encourage everyone to visit Dumbarton Oaks if you ever get the chance.
Lastly, we have the honor and privilege to hear from one of our country's long time leaders in forestry, Steven Koehn. Steve is the director of Cooperative Forestry with the US Forest Service in Washington DC. And provides expert advice and counsel to the Deputy Chief, State and Private Forestry, where he's responsible for plans, programs, and policies that promote forestry on state and private lands, including rural forestry, urban forestry, open space conservation, woody biomass, ecosystem services, forest taxation, reforestation, nurseries, and gene conservation, and climate change adaptation.
Previously, Steve was director and state forester for the Maryland Forest Service, and he's held many leadership positions. He's coordinated input on national forest policy issues such as the 2008 Farm Bill, national forest sustainability policy, and US Forest Service, State and Private Forestry Redesign.
He serves on numerous boards and committees and is a fellow with the Society of American Foresters. I think you get the picture. Like me, he got a forester degree from Penn State. So, go Nittany Lions. Here's Steve's story.
Steve Koehn: [37:21]
Hello. My name is Steve Koehn. I'm the Director of Cooperative Forestry with the US Forest Service here in the Washington office. Prior to that, I was also the state forester for the State of Maryland, working 31 years with the Maryland Forest Service. And I'd like to tell you a story about my fond memories of the largest white oak tree in the nation, which used to grow in the state of Maryland in the small village of Wye Mills on Maryland's Eastern Shore.
It was a white oak, but it was known as the Wye Oak, spelled W-Y-E. And one tree was the subject of the Wye Oak State Park. So, there was a state park that was only the size, basically, of the footprint of the tree. It was the nation's largest white oak. It was approximately 460 years old. It was a gigantic, majestic, spreading crown. By the time I got to know her, she was showing her age a little bit. There were a lot of cavities that had been filled by concrete that arborists had tried to shore up the structural integrity of the tree. And much of the tree had cabling and bracing to make sure that we weren't losing any major portions of the tree trunk or major limbs.
We had lost a major limb several years before I became state forester. The one limb that fell off the tree in a storm at that time was 33 tons. That limb was 33 tons and when it was salvaged, that limb was used by an artist to create a sculpture, a wooden sculpture of two children planting an oak tree that sits in the lobby of the Tawes State Office Building, which is the office of the Department of Natural Resources in Maryland.
This tree, forgive the expression, but it had a storied past. In June of 2002, as the Maryland State Forester, I got a call late one evening that a line of thunderstorms had come through and the Wye Oak had collapsed in one of the thunderstorms. I made my way down to the Eastern Shore from my house to take over the recovery aspects of trying to secure the site and make sure that there was no further damage or harm came from the tree, which had taken down power lines and caused a blockage of a major road through the village.
All through the night, people were coming to express their deepest sympathies and condolences for the loss of the tree. Many people were trying to gather leaves that had fallen off the tree or asked to have a leaf from the tree. We had a Native American come and represent his Indian tribe and sat and kneeled with the tree for about 15 minutes to pay homage to the spirit of the tree and what it meant to their particular tribe.
So, it was quite a loss for the State of Maryland but we were able to salvage every bit of the wood and anything that was structurally solid got either cut up into boards or made into other objects. We provided wood products to all the local counties on the eastern shore, and they had their county seal for the county courthouse redone in white oak wood. There was a lot of timber that was made available to local artisans that made all kinds of artifacts and all kinds of artwork, picture frames, and things that were utilitarian, as well as sculptures and other kinds of carvings. Lots of pens were made from white oak wood. A lot of ladies' pins for their blouses were made out of leaves. A good chunk of the wood that we had recovered from the tree was built into the current Governor of the State of Maryland's desk. So, the Governor of the State of Maryland has a Wye Oak wooden desk that he or she signs all the legislation on to become law in Maryland. The first person who was able to authorize the use of wood for that at the time was Governor Ehrlich. The most recent governor who just came out of office, Governor Hogan, also signed most, if not all of the bills that went into become law. All that legislation was signed on the Wye Oak desk.
We, as the State of Maryland, decided that we took some of the wood from the collapsed tree and we took cuttings from that and were able to graft those cuttings onto generic white oak rootstock, basically creating clones of the traditional and original Wye Oak tree. And we have been growing those seedlings. An original Wye Oak clone has gone back onto the original site and is growing the next generation of Wye Oak at the old site.
Some of the other seedlings that were cloned have been allowed to get big enough to produce acorns and now we are making available acorns from the clones of the original tree so people can get a grandson or a granddaughter, depending on how you want to look at it, seeds of the Wye Oak to be able to take home and plant in their people's own backyards or made use for other reasons like that.
So, the Wye Oak, in a sense, lives on. I always thought that this was a tremendous experience in that the outpouring of love and concern and caring about what the tree represented to many, many families that stopped in there on their way to Ocean City or picnicked under the shade or urban wildlife that made their homes in the branches and the cavities of that tree. It was 460 years old, and it certainly served the community and all that cared about it very, very well.
Some of my remembrances of the Wye Oak, I hope people understand that this is an important aspect of every Marylander's heritage, and I appreciate people wanting to know about the Wye Oak. You could check it out online if you ever had interest about what the wood was used for and how the wood was distributed and the history of the Wye Oak State Park. With that, I'll turn it back to our host. Thank you so much.
Doug Still: [44:02]
I had a chance to chat with Steve Koehn on the phone about the Wye Oak when he told another part of his tale that resonated with me as an arborist and urban forester. When he first stepped into the position of State Forester of Maryland, his predecessor left a letter in the desk for him to find, just like outgoing presidents do within the desk in the Oval Office.
One message Steve received in the letter was something to the effect of, "Never let anything happen to the Wye Oak." Myself, as someone responsible for the care of a historic 240-year-old icon of a tree (episode 1, The Betsey Williams Sycamore), I could relate to the mix of honor and consternation Steve must have felt upon reading that. What a body blow it must have been for the storm to destroy the tree so soon afterward. We should have nothing but respect for Steve and his team for managing the loss, properly mourning the tree, and turning its pieces into artifacts that have become part of Maryland's history and lore.
What an honor to have all of these wonderful stories told by our contributors. Thanks again to Gil Reavill, Jim Voorhies, Georgia Silvera Seamans, Chi Chan, Fran Hutton, Brandon Namm, Eva Monheim, Leena Chapagain, and Steven Koehn. You help make this episode special. And thank you, tree lovers, for listening. As many as I can, I plan to post photos of the trees and people featured today on Facebook and Instagram, so keep an eye out.
Also, check out the website at thisoldtree.show. I've got a T-shirt for you if you're interested. Most of all, if you've enjoyed this show, please find the Share Episode button on your podcast app and send it along to someone you think might enjoy it too. I will see you next time. I'm Doug Still, and this is This Old Tree.
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