Printer Friendly

The seed gatherers.


"Can you help us by collecting acorns from the Helen Keller Oak?"

Speaking is Susan Fisher, volunteer coordinator for The Classic Tree Nursery, a nationally known company that is growing trees for America's Historic Forests. The nursery orchestrates the collecting of seeds from historic and national champion trees, and then nurtures the seeds into seedlings to be planted in the Historic Forests.

Working out of the nursery's headquarters-a converted dairy barn in jacksonville, Florida-Fisher coordinates a growing network of volunteer seed collectors across the nation.

Her interest in Historic Forests comes out of her own background as a community volunteer. Fisher has seen the tragedies that the loss of trees can wreak on an urban environment. And she has done something about it. She and a friend started Greenscape, a local tree-planting organization, before Fisher signed on with the Historic Forests program.

Global ReLeaf coordinators and cooperators are helping her develop the network of seed collectors. In March 1990, Global ReLeafers read the first issue of Classic Tree News, a newsletter designed to provide updates on the Historic Forests program, alert volunteer collectors to trees that are seeding, and recognize volunteers for outstanding contributions to the project.

The timing was right. Phone calls flooded in. Readers asked for seed-collection kits or called to tell Fisher of a tree in their community that belonged in the Historic Tree collection.

One of the volunteers Fisher enlisted was Harriett Edwards of Florence, Alabama, a member of the town's tree commission, which helps protect the community's green resources. Fisher asked, "Can you collect acorns from the Helen Keller Oak?"

"I had read a couple of issues of the newsletter when Susan called," says Edwards, explaining how she happened to go acorning at Ivy Green, the estate in Tuscumbia, Alabama, where Helen Keller was born.

Keller's autobiography, The Story of My Life, and the movie, The Miracle Worker, tell the story of how Keller climbed the tree during a thunderstorm. Oblivious to the storm because of her hearing and visual impairments, Keller had to be rescued by her teacher.

Harriett Edwards went to pick the Keller acorns in late September. In seed collection, timing is critical. Missing a seed cycle means months or even years of lost time since some trees do not produce seeds annually.

"No plastic, please!" horticulturist Gene Gruenbeck, who develops the Historic Forests collection calendar, told Edwards. 'Plastic is airtight, so moisture accumulates and spoils the seeds."

Placing the Keller acorns in a paper sack, Edwards shipped them to The Classic Tree Nursery, which has established a network of some of the finest growers in the nation. Among them are Chestnut Hill Nursery, the largest producer of chestnut trees in the U.S., and Glen St. Mary Nurseries, noted for introducing fruit trees such as the Japanese persimmon. Classic Tree shipped the Keller acorns to Bob Byrnes at Trail Ridge Nursery in Keystone Heights, Florida.

"We've received seeds from all over the country," Byrnes says. Some of them are from trees that are quite old. For example, we worked with an American Holly that George Washington himself planted at Mount Vernon." Byrnes says that he went into that one pessimistically because older trees don't bear as many viable seeds. Nevertheless, it worked, and Byrnes attributes the success to the tree's vigor.

At 150 to 180 years old, the Keller Oak also ranks as an aging tree, but it too is in good condition. Harriett Edwards envisions a time when people will walk in the shade of its descendants and learn how Helen Keller overcame her disabilities.

Okay, so the volunteers send in seeds, and designated growers such as Bob Byrnes nurture them into seedlings. What next?

"We make sure we keep strict control of what we have," says Byrnes."We take extreme measures to keep the inventory straight." The reason is to ensure the accuracy of a Certificate of Authenticity that is issued to those who plant a tree in America's Historic Forests (see -How to Help" on page 42).

The next step is planting the seedlings in a Historic Forest, where they will be nurtured and cared for as tenderly as most of their progenitors are.

Like Keller's hometown, most communities can boast of a beloved tree that symbolizes its history. But even well-loved trees don't live forever.

"I call it my loving tree," says Josephine Leuzzi, of New Hope, Pennsylvania, another volunteer seed collector. She is referring to the Columbus Oak, a white oak thought to be 507 years old, according to ring borings.

Leuzzi and her neighbors consider themselves the guardians and caretakers of the Columbus Oak. A class at nearby Council Rocks Intermediate School raised money for a small trust fund to help maintain the tree. Leuzzi welcomes the hundreds of visitors each year who come to see the majestic tree, but like other tree owners, she appreciates it if they ask permission first.

Helping obtain permission for collecting seeds-whether the historic tree is on private or public property-is another of Susan Fisher's jobs. "We respect each owner's requirements," she says, when we ask permission to include their tree in the America's Historic Forests collection' " Sometimes volunteers help smooth the way.

"I'm meeting with the ranger on Monday," says Jennifer Frongillo, a Global ReLeaf cooperator in Winchester, Massachusetts, and leader of a Girl Scout troop. Frongillo's scout troop want to gather seeds from Walden Woods State Reservation, where the trees grow that inspired Thoreau. "Meeting the ranger completes the footwork I've done," Frongillo says. "We also plan to collect seeds from historic red oaks, American elms, and sugar maples at Hammond Castle in Gloucester, Massachusetts."

All across the nation, the appeal of the Historic Forests is opening gates to the volunteers who proudly wear their Global ReLeaf T-Shirts with Famous Seed Collector" emblazoned on the back. Some are drawn by the opportunity for environmental activism, others by the educational component.

One of thE latter is Suzanne Malec, an urban-forestry educator and Global ReLeaf cooperator who develops programs to encourage city dwellers to "own" their environment. "We're developing a program to identify champion trees in the city," says Malec, who envisions inner-city Historic Groves.

Still others are drawn by the historic component. "I'm 80 years old,"says Anita Totman of Phippsburg, Maine, but I crawled around on the ground to gather seeds from the Constitutional Bicentennial English linden. A shipbuilder named McCobb brought this tree back from England in 1774." Totman sees the Historic Forests as a way to encourage future generations to remember the people and events that built this nation.

Some volunteers are historic preservationists who understand that venerable old trees are an integral component of historic districts, giving them life.

The people-to-people nature of Historic Forests is creating a groundswell of interest. "People in my town want to know more than I can tell them," says Harriett Edwards.

Tell them to call Susan Fisher at 904/396-5900. She can't wait to talk about trees for America's Historic Forests.


To have a seedling planted for you in America's Historic Forests, send a check for $30 to America's Historic Forests, P.O. Box 47560, Jacksonville, FL 32247-7560, or call 9041396-5900. A tree will be planted in your name or in the name of any other individual you designate.

You will receive a Certificate of Authenticity indicating what historic or champion tree produced the seedling, a brief history of the famous tree, the location of your tree, the person in whose name it was planted, a one-year subscription to America's Historic Forests newsletter, and an AHF membership in AFA.

The Legacy

Each summer, when I visit the Northwest to backpack and taste the wilderness, I make a special point to visit the Ross Creek Giant Cedars in Montana's Bull River Valley or the Settlers Grove Cedars near Murray, Idaho. In a good year I'll visit both. In the three or four hours I spend there, I'm able to get a year's worth of -the feeling"-not just love for the trees and the place but love for the planet itself. The fact that these old trees that have fought the wind and snow and drought have been there for so long and seen so much is both humbling and rejuvenating for me.

I've had the feeling' at the Wye Oak on Maryland's Eastern Shore, at the Treaty Oak in Jacksonville, Florida, in City Park in New Orleans, at Muir Woods in northern California, at the arboretum at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, and at the National Arboretum in Washington, DC.

The legacy of America's Historic Forests is that in 200 years there will be thousands of protected old-growth groves across our nation, grown from the progeny of historic trees long gone. In each of these groves, the feeling' will be there.


The Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution, chaired by former Chief Justice Warren Burger, has unanimously voted to adopt America's Historic Forests as a major component in the commemoration of the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Citizen groups around the country will plant thousands of groves over the next five years as a permanent commemoration of their community's celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Constitution.
COPYRIGHT 1991 American Forests
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:Focus; identification and collection of historic tree seed and reproduction for America's Historic Forests program
Author:Crouse, Richard J.
Publication:American Forests
Date:Jan 1, 1991
Previous Article:Planting yesterday in tomorrow's citizens.
Next Article:Paint America green.

Related Articles
Sowing the seeds of a dream; profiles of people who make a difference for trees and forests.
Saving the past for the future.
Pickin' seed; you have to be a little squirrelly to do this, but it's the first step in ensuring the genetic superiority of the trees of the 21st...
Planting yesterday in tomorrow's citizens.
For the love of Walden Woods.
The living classrooms idea.
Gold medal trees.
A good thing comes to Mount Vernon. (Clippings).
A gift to the future: walnut trees evoke the value of planting, longevity, and good solid wood. (Tree Stories).

Terms of use | Copyright © 2016 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters