Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Contributing Writer - Mike Galvin, Deputy Director
Ongoing Series - Trees of Note

A tree so big that it provides shade even when it has no leaves - that is worth saving!

The red oak (Quercus rubra), featured above, is located in downtown DC in McPherson Square. I took this photo in mid-March, too early for any leaves to be on the tree but perfectly timed to coincide with beautiful weather – temperatures in the 60’s. Just before I took this shot a man was relaxing in the shade of the tree. This tree is so huge it casts a great deal of shade even without any leaves. It is 60” in diameter – that’s almost 16’ around the trunk - and 115’ tall. It provides a great place to have an outdoor lunch and get respite from the heat of the day beneath its cool canopy.

I am not sure how old this red oak is but it is most likely not an original element of McPherson Square. Built in 1867, McPherson Square was originally named Scott Square as a memorial to Lieutenant General Winfield Scott. Five years later the statue of Scott was moved to the circle at Massachusetts and Rhode Island Avenues, and the square was planted with silver maples lining the perimeter, graded and sodded. In 1876 the statue of James B. McPherson, a Major General in the Union Army who fought in the American Civil War, was installed and the square was renamed McPherson Square.

In 1892, the Army Corps of Engineers completely redesigned the park. The entire grade was elevated and twenty-one existing trees were removed. This indicates that the tree was probably planted sometime in the late 19th or early 20th century and is approximately 100 years old today. A plant list circa 1905 lists two red oaks on the site – this tree could well have been one of them.

The National Park Service is again planning improvements to McPherson Square. The work is being planned in such a way so that this tree will be retained.

Visit this Tree of Note - McPherson Square, 1400 I Street NW, Washington DC 20050.
This red oak is also listed as a Trees of Note on the Casey Trees Map.


Red Oak 101:
  • Location - common to the East Coast and Midwest
  • Crown - rounded
  • Foliage - leaf is 4"-8" long, bristle tips on lobes
  • Color - reddish in spring, dark green in summer, russet in fall
  • Fruit - acorn has a saucer-like cap, takes two years to mature
  • Bark - steel gray, ridged and furrowed
  • Landscape use - great street tree; tolerant of urban pollution

Nominate a Tree of Note. All individuals that nominate a Tree of Note by Arbor Day on Friday, April 30, 2010 will be entered to win an autographed copy of City of Trees authored by Melanie Choukas-Bradley.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Looks like this tree might have been cut down today.