Happy (almost) Independence Day! The United States of America is a unique, goofy place and Fourth of July seems to bring about a universal patriotic mood – especially in our Nation’s Capital! While eagles typically come to mind as the symbol of the States, did you know the U.S. has an official national tree? Only formally recognized in 2004 (!) Congress named the Oak tree as our national tree. No species, just the genus Quercus. D.C. was a bit ahead of the game and recognized a tree in 1960. Believe it or not, it’s not a cherry tree- the scarlet oak is our official tree, since we can’t exactly have a state tree.
The oak was the natural choice for the national tree. Its many species are common to all 50 States, and six States have already named the oak as their State tree. The oak tree has also played an important role in the history of the United States. They have been a part of many important events, from Abraham Lincoln’s use of the Salt River Ford Oak as a marker in crossing a river near Homer, Illinois, to Andrew Jackson taking shelter under Louisiana’s Sunnybrook Oaks on his way to the Battle of New Orleans. And who can forget “Old Ironsides,” the USS Constitution, that took its nickname from the strength of its live oak hull, famous for repelling British cannonballs. Not to mention they’ve long been prized for their shade, beauty, and lumber.
While enjoying this wonderful and quirky country, take a moment this Independence Day to appreciate one of our most widespread emblems – our beloved oak tree.
Note: the photo above is of an 105-foot-tall white oak on Northampton Street NW. In 2006, it was found to be the tallest tree in the District, discovered as a part of our ‘Living Legacy’ campaign.