Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Old Growth Trees in Evansville, Indiana

Evansville, Indiana may not seem like a destination location, unless you are really into old-growth trees.  This place is a dendrologist's nirvana.

Indiana's State Champion Cherrybark Oak, Quercus pagoda.
Arriving in town, my primary mission was to visit this tree and pay my respects in person.  It stands on the lawn of the Indiana State Hospital and reigns mightily over a host of lesser trees. It is stunningly large: Circumference at 4 ½ Feet: 252”  Height: 95’ Crown Spread: 131’ Point Index: 379.75 

Cherrybark Oak gets it name from the odd plated bark which is reminiscent of a cherry tree. It is quite southern in its range, and barely tips into the southern most portion of  Indiana. Never heard of Cherrybark Oak?  Neither had I, but it is not the only big tree in Vanderburg County. While many counties cannot boast a single record tree, Vanderburg held 26 records in 2005.  
 VANDERBURGH—(26) Biltmore Ash, Pumpkin Ash, Red Ash, Basswood, Paper Birch, River Birch, Catalpa, Dogwood, Sugar Hackberry, Green Haw, Mockernut Hickory, Red Hickory, Thornless Honeylocust, Blackjack Oak, Cherrybark Oak, Post Oak, Schneck Oak, Shingle Oak, Southern Red Oak, Paw Paw, Pecan, Wild Goose Plum, Wooley-leaf American Plum, Serviceberry (2 co-champions), Sweetgum
Tulip Tree, Liriodendron tulipifera 

One of Evansville's city parks, Wesselman Woods  is a nature preserve.  The wise city fathers set aside an entire old-growth tract of land to be enjoyed by all!   Today it is completely enveloped by urbanization, making these trees seem even more impressive set against the back drop of a bustling city.  Seeing a single Grand Champion tree is always exciting, but to visit an entire functioning eco-system is beyond a delight!

Spring ephemerals grass the lawns
It is not only the trees which are left in their natural state.  The lawns have remained free of herbicides, as witnessed by the  bouquets of Spring Beauties and Violets found in abundance.  It is so rare to find a park lawn unhampered by modern day man's desire to grown a mono-culture lawn.

Evansville is a town where "greenies' can bask in untrammeled nature and feel renewed.  Not only is nature beautiful, it is good for tourism!  I am not the only person who has traveled far out of my way to see this majestic remnant of America's past.  

A vernal pool is featured  mid-park.
Mid-park there is also a large vernal pool with Bald Cypress, Taxodium distichum and  gigantic Black Gums, Nyssa sylvatica. The park was active with early morning birders, dog walkers and a entire unit of soldiers in training from the nearby Army Reserve base.  The wood ducks paddling across the vernal pool paid them no mind.
Seasonally Closed

The road next to the vernal pool is seasonally closed during the Salamander run!  How progressive is that? Evansville is quintessentially the "perfect" American town in my book. Finally, a city who values it natural resources as nature!  The trees are celebrated not as board feet of timber, but rather as living, breathing history.

My only regret was not having enough time to spend in this wonderful village.  Some day I hope to return but until then, if you stop by Evansville, give my regards to that old Cherrybark Oak.

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