A few years ago I was part of a team doing an environmental assessment for a local road project.  When I saw these giant bur oaks (all around four-and-a-half feet diameter at breast height), I knew I’d be among the last to see them.

The project drew a lot of opposition from local residents and environmental groups. Alignments changed to avoid certain impacts. Wetlands and listed species are regulated. Oak trees such as these are not. To my knowledge, nobody spoke up specifically for this old grove of trees. Nobody chained themselves against their coarse, four-inch thick bark. Nobody called their representative. These trees fell uneventfully and without resistance.


1941 and 2018 images of old bur oaks. The four oaks that the arrows follow between the two years were felled in September, 2018 to make way for a new road. The three oaks just to their east remain.

It was an imprecise and difficult task due to the roughness of portions of the cuts, the bees swarming from hollows higher up in the fallen trees, and mosquitoes, but on two different trees I counted approximately 180 rings.

bypass oaks3

The air was warm and heavy with the sweet, green smell from the fallen bole and broken limbs.

This grove predated Aldo Leopold’s birth by decades, and his “Good Oak” wouldn’t lay down its first ring-wood before these oaks were making acorns. Passenger pigeons still migrated in the billions.

Today the location where these trees grew is buried deep beneath the grade of a four lane bypass. 

Mourn and ponder this tremendous loss with me.

bypass oaks2



About prairiebotanist

This entry was posted in biodiversity, Conservation, Forests, Oak opening, oaks, Savanna, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to 1838-2018

  1. I can relate fully to the emotion and sense of loss you are sharing with your post. I have been witness to many large , beautiful, timeless Oaks( and their habitat) falling prey to development without any recognition or respect for how long they have endured and thrived there. There was this one job I worked on where they took down this Huge Oak and I mean HUGE, after some persuasion I was allowed to take some of the wood home. I used it to make a beautiful bench . ……the tree lives on in a way.

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