Tree of the Week: Swamp White Oak

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I was recently in New York City, 15 years after the 9/11 tragedy, and was reminded of that day. We were on our BYGL call back here in Ohio and Dave Dyke of OSUE, Hamilton County broke into a plant report with news that a plane, possibly a small plane had flown into the World Trade Center. We took it in and continued our reports.


  Minutes later he burst in that another plane had hit the other tower and that these were large passenger planes. Now we knew something was terribly wrong and yet, like many people, we tried to continue with our scheduled activities for a while. As reports from New York City continued, we realized that BYGL would have to fade into background for that week – change was upon us all.


Swamp white oaks in the Memorial Plaza





  So, at Ground Zero this past week. In the Memorial plaza now are mighty oaks. Hundreds of mighty swamp white oaks (Quercus bicolor). Landscape architects Peter Walker and Partners intended for these oaks to be living and growing reminders to match the loss in the “Reflecting Absence” design of the recessed pools on the footprints of the Twin Towers. The cascading flow of water in the pools, the names of those lost inscribed along the edges, the immensity of what these images reflect - and the oaks.


The Refelcted Abscence at the Memorial Plaza in NYC

Trees and buildings amidst the footprints of the Twin Towers

Ladder 13 at the 9/11 Memorial site


  People walk in the plaza on pavement that is placed on concrete tables underground that support troughs of loosened soil to sustain growth of the oak tree roots. These trees show good health: with lustrous green upper leaf surfaces, white on the lower leaves – bicolored. Swamp white oaks are a major native forest tree, growing to 60 feet, popular now in landscaping for its adaptability, its ease of transplanting among oaks, and its environmental canopy services.  


bi color oaks


  As noted on the 9/11 Memorial site: “The trees will never be identical, growing at different heights and changing leaves at different times [fall color], a physical reminder that they are living individuals.”


    Parvis e glandibus quercus. Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.


The Freedom Tower and the oaks in shadow