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Old Trees We Love

The remains of the white linden oak after the majority of it was removed, North Bethesda, Maryland.
G. Edward Johnson
Wikimedia Commons
The remains of the white linden oak after the majority of it was removed, North Bethesda, Maryland.

Last week, I was saddened to receive a newspaper clipping from my younger brother.

The brief report announced the removal of the Linden White Oak tree that lived in the neighborhood where I grew up, just outside of Washington, D.C. The 300-year-old tree had been in declining health for several years, forcing the county arborists to schedule its removal.

It was a special tree for me. Every Saturday morning during my middle school summers, my two older sisters and I would walk down Grosvenor Lane to catch the T6 bus to our weekly piano lessons. We would wait at the bus stop beneath the tree. I was grateful for the shade it cast during those hot muggy afternoons. Even more, I treasured the sense of peace and stillness I felt beneath it.

At the time, I never even imagined that one day, it would die. But there it was in the newspaper, the soon-to be demise of that giant, silent friend of mine. The article noted that the oak’s trunk would be left in place as a memorial, with a plaque that commemorated its status as a 1976 Bicentennial Tree.

Do you have a tree that holds a sense of history and of place for you? If you do, you’ll understand that stumps and plaques can’t replace the meaning and presence of a special living tree.

What does comfort me, though, is the knowledge that an individual oak tree can produce about 10,000 acorns every year. So, over its long lifetime, that big Linden Oak has produced about 3 million acorns. My hope is that at least one of those seeds will germinate, sprout and flourish, to provide shade — and sense of stillness — for my great-great-grandchildren, just as it did for me.

Dr. Nalini Nadkarni is an emeritus professor of both The Evergreen State College and the University of Utah, one of the world’s leading ecologists and a popular science communicator. Dr. Nadkarni’s research and public engagement work is supported by the National Geographic Society and the National Science Foundation. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. @nalininadkarni
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