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That big tree

By Kristi Hendricks

Master Gardener

If you are one of those people that can’t see the trees for the forest, visit Heritage Park & Joel C. Bradshaw Fairgrounds off the Courthouse Highway (Highway #258) about 2 miles north of Windsor. There is a magnificent lone oak tree to your right as you enter the park on Henry Bradby Trail.

In several conversations with a fellow Master Naturalists while examining its leaves, acorns, twigs and bark, we could not make a definite determination as to the specific oak species of this tree, so we just settled on it being in the white oak family. Whatever the variety, it appears to have reached its potential form. A single acorn sprouted, maybe more than 200 years ago, and had just the right conditions-moisture, soil type and sunlight-to flourish. This oak has endured as a quiet giant witness of history and time.

There it is in plain view. Drive into the park and take a right into a driveway to the parking area. Walk over to the tree and stop at the drip line. Look across to the other side. With the help of a 4 year-old child, a ball of twine, a yardstick and some bright orange garden flags, we got about the task of making some very crude measurements. According to our measurements, it is about 100 feet from one side of the canopy to the other. The low limbs extending from the trunk seemed to form the ceiling of a very large room. The tips of the limbs reached within 7 feet of the ground. My helper and I walked up to the tree’s trunk, and again using our ball of twine, measured the circumference of the tree at about 18 feet. We stepped back and looked upward toward the crown while listening to the sound of the wind moving through the branches. My helper said, “This is a really big tree.” He had a close up and personal experience with nature.

Today, time spent outside is alarmingly low-maybe only minutes a day while screen time is at an all-time high. This is taking a mental and physical toll on today’s adults and children. Research has shown that lack of nature in today’s wired generation has contributed to a rise in obesity, attention deficit disorders and depression. Our lives are busier than ever with jobs, school and family life. Being around trees can help decrease our stress and anxiety.

Visit this lovely tree and/or take a walk where there are trees. Think of it as a prescription that might have health benefits with no negative side effects.