Wednesday, April 2, 2008
The Big Burr Oak At My House
The Burr Oak (Quercus macrocarpa) in my front yard was here before my house was built. This neighborhood was once a large forested area on the western outskirts of Nashville and sometime in the late 1950's Hillwood was developed. America was totally in love with the car and suburban homes with two car garages were springing up all over.
This tree sits in its own little forest of white oaks, shag bark hickories, hackberries and redbuds. I have protected him from the power company that wants yearly to shear all the limbs off the street side to protect the power lines. We hire an arborist to keep him trimmed, but even then, the folks who decide what must 'go' aren't always cooperative! You have to be strong when you fight for 'grandfather's health'.
Big Burr and his forest friends: redbud, shagbark hickory and hackberry.
I just adore this oak tree. Does that sound silly to adore a tree? He is a venerable soul and sits proudly over the front yard. Phooey on those 'not arborist' who want to protect the power lines! When they come by this year and try to paint a big red/yellow/blue spot on Big Burr, you can count on me being out there arguing with them! They are not going to deface this tree. (visualize Scarlet O'Hara, hand up-raised...)
The Oak has been considered sacred by almost every culture. I consider it a wise old tree...Last year when spring bloom was wiped out by a killer frost the Burr Oak was the only tree that had not begun to leaf out. Someone asked what I learned about gardening through last year's late frost/drought and I said this: "Plant oaks, plant natives....they have a chance to survive." All over this neighborhood, Magnolia grandiflora are dead...they are not native to Tennessee, but the Burr oaks are thriving.
Here are the facts:
Burr oak (Quercus macrocarpa), also known as blue oak, mossy-overcup oak, mossy-overcup oak, and scrub oak, has the largest acorns* of all native oaks. It has a deeply furrowed silver gray bark that looks good in winter.
It is very drought resistant. It grows slowly on dry uplands and sandy plains but is also found on fertile limestone soils and moist bottomlands in mixture with other hardwoods. It's a social tree and likes the company of other trees!
Common Name: bur/burr oak
Zone: 3 to 8
Plant Type: Tree
Family: Fagaceae (Beech)
Tennessee Native: Yes
Native Range: North and central United States, southeastern Canada
Height: 60 to 80 feet
Spread: 60 to 80 feet
Bloom Time: April, past the last frost date
Bloom Color: Yellowish-green
Fall Foliage: Yellowish brown, not known for outstanding color, it has other good qualities
Acorns: Fabulous, big, with fringed cups. Squirrels love them. Perfect for fairy boats.
Sun: Full sun
Water: Dry to medium, very drought tolerant
Maintenance: Low, I leave the mulched leaves out to the drip line most years.
Bark: Deeply furrowed, quite beautiful to my eye.
Does not transplant well. It has this interesting habit of developing a long taproot so even year old seedlings don't like to be transplanted.
Where to plant: Larger front or back yard, it's a big tree creating dry shade beneath its canopy.
"What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another." Mahatma Gandhi
* not my photo