Sunday, January 22, 2012
The Douglas County Extension Master Gardeners are kicking off a new project to locate trees of historical significance in the county. The end goal of the “Historic Trees of Douglas County” project is to educate residents and visitors about those trees, sharing the stories that connect us to our heritage.
Do you know the legend of the hanging tree that supposedly aided in the death of one of Quantrill’s raiders? Or stories of trees that shaded Lawrence’s earliest settlers or took bullets in the Civil War? These are just the kind of trees the Master Gardeners hope to learn about and share as part of the project.
Although Master Gardeners are welcoming suggestions and stories of worthy potential heritage trees, not just any old tree will make the cut. Specifically, trees selected as heritage trees must meet one or more of the following criteria:
• The tree is associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad pattern of our history.
• The tree is associated with the life of a person or group with historical or cultural significance.
• The tree represents a significant and distinguishable entity within a community or location.
• The tree’s age, size or species, or a combination of those factors, makes it significant to our heritage.
Suggestions of potential heritage trees can be submitted through the K-State Research and Extension — Douglas County office, 2110 Harper St., Lawrence. You can also reach Master Gardeners or me at 843-7058 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In cases of Heritage Trees located on private property, landowners will have the option of making the tree’s location known. Preference may be given to trees on public land or that are readily accessible to visitors.
Thinking about a tree’s past is a bit of a change from my usual “trees are the future” mentality. Now, sitting under a big, old oak tree offers a moment of reflection to the history that tree has seen and the events it has witnessed firsthand. Trees tell us stories of environmental conditions and catastrophic events through their growth rings, but those still standing can perhaps tell us even more.
The quest to locate heritage trees is also a good time to reflect on the benefits trees provide — often defined as societal, communal, environmental and economic benefits. Not only do trees make us feel good when we are around them but they also produce life-giving oxygen, shade and cool city streets and sidewalks, reduce heating and cooling costs, provide privacy and even direct traffic.
If you do not know of any potential heritage trees, think about planting one for the future.
Stay tuned for more information and educational programs upon project completion.
Funding for the project is being provided by the Douglas County Heritage Conservation Council’s Natural and Cultural Heritage Grant Program.
— Jennifer Smith is the Horticulture Extension Agent for K-State Research and Extension in Douglas County. She can be reached at 843-7058.