If You Were A Tree…

Barbara Walters would end interviews by asking her guest what tree he/she would be if he/she was a tree. I doubt anyone ever said Bur Oak.

Being an outdoor person came in handy in the summer of COVID. One friend and I met every Wednesday to walk in Edwin Warner Park in Nashville. Our weekly loop passed by a massive tree. The size of the tree demanded attention. We would wonder, “What kind is it?” “How old do you think it is?” “Do you think it was here during the Civil War.”

The leaves showed it was an oak tree and I guessed it was at least 250 years old. Most of the oak trees in the area are White Oaks, but I was not sure about this tree. I had never seen a White Oak this large and the limbs seemed to be more like those of a Live Oak with some diving dramatically downward and others reaching out parallel to the ground. Live Oaks are only in the Deep South, usually coastal areas. There is moss on the tree, but it is not Spanish Moss.

I started with a web search. I discovered that the oldest known tree in Tennessee was cut down in 2014. That White Oak was 487 years old and was 468 feet tall. By continuing to research both the oldest and the largest trees in Tennessee, I discovered that my tree was a Bur Oak. Burs are know for their size, durability and longevity. It is not unusual for these trees to be over 200 years old and some in Middle Tennessee date back to 1650. Only Bur Oakes over 220 years have Resurrection Ferns which I had mistaken as moss.

I called the Warner Park Nature Center to ask if anyone knew about the tree. The woman I was speaking to declared, “I LOVE that tree!” She also let me know that the unique acorns were tasty. She did not know the age of the tree, but it was fun to meet another admirer.

Archaeological excavations indicate that the land around the tree has been occupied for over 9000-years. The land was proclaimed “settled” when John Davis received a 6,955 acre land grant in 1790, making him one of the original founders of Nashville. As the farm passed from generation to generation, it became known as Devon Farm. At one time it was probably the largest Devon cattle farm in the United States.

The Bur Oak stands in Edwin Warner Park next to a slave built stacked stone fence. The area on the other side of the fence is now an elite private school. The farm’s original brick home, cemetery and log cabin still stand on the school’s property.

It is incredible to imagine all that this tree has witnessed. If it is only 250 years old, that would place it’s beginning in 1770. It witnessed Native Americans hunters, John Davis building a home and fences, the rise and fall of a family’s wealth, Tennessee thoroughbreds, enslaved people, the Civil War, English cattle, Harpeth River floods and the growth of a city. I am in awe of this tree, it’s size, age, strength and resilience.

While I am unlikely to ever be interviewed by Barbara Walter’s, I am fully prepared should I be asked what tree I would be if I was a tree. Aspens and rhododendron are nice, but I’m going with the majestic witness.

34 thoughts on “If You Were A Tree…

  1. Zoewiezoe says:

    That is a GORGEOUS tree!
    I do love those trees that look like they have all the stories to tell.
    And should anyone ever pose that question to me I’m going to have to go with the added drama: a (weeping) wise old willow. With the branches touching the water I’m weeping into. Like the one in Pocahontas. Gorgeous!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Robin says:

    That is a beautiful tree! I see someone else has already recommended The Overstory. It’s a wonderful book, and I thought of it, too, while reading your post.

    You’ve inspired me to look into the oaks we have here. I know there are 21 species native to Maryland. Not sure how many of those are on the Eastern Shore (where I live). We have a large old oak in the backyard that has probably seen many things and would have a lot of stories to tell if it could (and it does, in its own way, tell stories although I’m still figuring them out).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sarah Davis says:

      I love the Eastern Shore! Those oaks may have seen the founding of this county, so cool.

      I lived in Silver Spring for a few years before I came back South. I escaped to the Eastern Shore or the beach every chance I got. I miss crab shacks!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Debbie says:

    What a gorgeous tree, Sarah, and thank you for doing the research which added so much to your post! My ‘problem’ with oak trees is the mess they leave behind. Sure, squirrels need acorns, but I don’t like walking over them. And trying to rake pin oak leaves is a lesson in futility. I think I’ll stick with our maples!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ladysag77 says:

    What beautiful pictures and trees my dear! I love trees so much, my favorite being the willow and the banyan. We can learn so much from nature, I sit in solitude so often since it’s a part of my practices as a shaman. Restoring balance and staying in alignment with nature is how I draw my strength. Namaste dear Sarah🙏

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Kumar Harsh says:

    Loved reading the post Sara. The images were so spectacular. It was like watching the tree as if one is there. I especially liked how you took a quote from an interview and extrapolated it into this wonderful post. I do find the company of nature to be somewhat like being with a close friend. She rarely talks but always listens. Thank you for the post. 😇
    Hope you are well. 😇

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Eilene Lyon says:

    Wonderful post, Sarah. Tree are amazing and my study of botany impressed me about plants even more. I will add to the chorus about The Overstory.

    I wrote my first blog post about bristlecone pines, but I think I’d want to be an aspen tree. They are extensive organisms that can cover hundreds of acres. And they’re so gorgeous in the fall. Plus I love the mountains where they live.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Kathy says:

    I love your love of this tree, and how much diligence and effort you put into finding out about it. Did not know anything about a Bur Oak until now–don’t think we have them in Upper Michigan. Your friend is a beautiful tree indeed.


  8. shoreacres says:

    This is a fabulous tree. I was introduced to Bur oaks in Kansas, where many still survive that were witness to various treaty signings and so on. They’re certainly intertwined with human history. By the way, I suspect your resurrection moss actually is resurrection fern. There’s moss on the rocks, but that ‘fuzzy’ appearance of the limbs is a sure indicator of resurrection fern. It grows on the limbs of live oak, too, drying up in drought and then coming back to life with rain. When it dries, it curls up like little wagon wheels.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s