Probably most people remember a tree that was important to them in some way, either in childhood, or because of some special event in life. My special tree was a walnut tree in the yard of the house I grew up in. It was not even a full-grown tree at that time, but the trunk split at just the right height to make a perfect foothold for s child to climb the tree.
I played games underneath the tree and climbed in its shady branches to sit among the leaves. I swung from a rather low branch and used it as a trapeze. Another branch was just right for a rope swing with a board for a seat. I spent many happy hours playing under the walnut tree.
I saw a story somewhere about an artist that sketches trees that have a special significance attached to them. He started by sketching a tree that was important to him, and as it turned out, it was also significant to other people who saw the drawing.
It seems that trees are important to a lot of people, so important that there is actually National Registry for Historic trees. These are not like my walnut tree, but trees that are landmarks or have historic importance. The Angel Oak of Charleston, S.C. is a beautiful old tree believed to be 1400 years old and the oldest living thing east of the Rockies.
Other trees are important because of events that happened near them, such as the dueling oaks of New Orleans, where sword fights occurred in the olden days. There are “hanging trees” near jails in Texas and New Mexico. Jacksonville, Florida has a famous old live oak tree where treaties were signed between settlers and the natives. Boston had a elm in colonial times known as the “Liberty Tree” due to its association with the American Revolution.
Some important trees are associated with or named after a special person. General Sherman, a giant Sequoia tree in California, is the world’s largest tree and 3,500 years old. Methuselah, a bristlecone pine in California, is believed to be the world’s oldest living organism at over 4,700 years old.
Some trees are so important they have a pedigree, such as two large Tulip Trees planted by George Washington at Mt. Vernon. Seeds from famous trees are actually gathered by an organization and sold so that you can buy them and plant a tree that is the actual offspring of a famous parent. Your backyard could become a living history story.
Trees are often taken for granted until they are gone. Elms were a popular shade tree at one time, but they were nearly wiped out by Dutch elm disease. Millions of firs have been lost in the Smoky Mountains due to imported insects that are toxic to the species. Many old trees are cut down to make way for roads and buildings. My walnut tree is now gone, a victim of urban development.
The National Registry of Big Trees enables anyone to nominate trees to be included in case you happen to have a piece of infamy growing in your yard. The trees in my yard are not worthy of national distinction. However, they are still special either because of who planted them or because of other associations. I have a plum tree, the lone survivor of four trees planted by my dad. My Jonathan apple tree was planted by my late husband to honor a grandson and is the same age.
I also have a large silver maple tree that the kids in the neighborhood seem to favor. Like my walnut tree, the trunk of the tree splits at just the right height for a child to be able to use it as a foothold for climbing.
We need to listen to the trees more often.