In his poem, “Trees”, Joyce Kilmer said, “Only God can create a tree…” For one of the finest old tree collections in Central Kentucky, visit the Wallis Arboretum. Many are over 100 years, including the recently declared Kentucky Champion Northern Red Oak. It is over 96 feet tall, its circumference 180 feet, measured at 4.5 feet from the ground and one of the old trees that dominate the front yard. It is one of 11 National Register of Big Trees in Kentucky.
Mrs. Wallis was known for wise choices in selection of only the best trees to plant, including the Northern Red Oak. It is the most popular of the oaks for the home landscape for its beautiful shape and spring foliage of greenish-red foliage that turns a dark red in the fall. It is also known for its rapid growth, strong wood, and resistance to fungi and insects as it contains tannic acid. It tolerates urban pollution and drought due to its deep tap root.
Oaks have been a part of our culture for centuries. Linnaeus listed red oak as only one of five of the 600 species. Oaks have been a source of ship and structure lumber, furniture, and barrels for whiskey and other spirits. Even the galls are ground for a type of manuscript ink.
This fall, Oakland Farms and The Garden Club of Kentucky are collecting the Red Oak’s acorns to propagate seedlings of the champion. Unlike many tree seeds, Red Oak’s acorns take two years to mature. It is hoped that seedlings of the champion will be available in the future.
The Nannine Clay Wallis Arboretum, 616 Pleasant Street, Paris, is open to the public year-round without charge.