The renowned biologist E.O. Wilson has proposed that we address the biodiversity challenge by giving up half the Earth to the natural world. In his 2016 book Half Earth – Our Planet’s Fight For Life, Wilson made a powerful case that humanity could afford to give half the Earth over to nature, while still allowing […]

Trees and Bees

Wind pollinated trees are abundant in temperate forests. Male flowers cast pollen into the wind in random search of a mate. In early spring, it is not uncommon to see bees and other insects visiting the male flowers in search of pollen, but they are foragers, not pollinators. I regularly visit a number of trees […]

Aecial spore horns of Gymnosporangium sp. on Amelanchier arborea

Rust Never Sleeps

Nature is often savagely beautiful, as when a leopard stalks a zebra. In the contest between fungi and plants, there are often such beautiful but savage moments. One of the showiest examples takes place in early summer, when spores burst out of cedar trees and soon attack apples, quinces, and serviceberries. The players here are […]

Magnolia flower

Take a walk and smell the trees

One of the most interesting ways to experience trees is to take a “smell walk.” The next time you are walking in the woods or in your local park or cemetery, try to focus on the smells around you, especially if the day is warm and humid.  As you stroll along, pay careful attention to […]

A nice book review

Andrea Kornbluh of Rowan University has written a very thorough and kind review of Venerable Trees – History, Biology and Conservation in the Bluegrass in the Fall 2017 issue of Plant Science Bulletin. Here is her review:

The Old Schoolhouse Oak

As we begin a new year working with ancient trees, we want to pay our respects to one of the most important ancient oak trees in Lexington. We were able to carefully preserve the tree during development, and today it is thriving. Here is a photographic tribute to the Old Schoolhouse Oak. I hope it […]

Get a Real Christmas Tree

Think about the last time you were in a conifer forest – the smell, the wind softly stirring the canopy, the crunch of needles under foot. While you can’t precisely imitate  a forest in your living room, bringing a live Christmas tree into your house comes pretty close. We know that people benefit greatly from […]


The longest growing season – Updated

UPDATE: A sudden cold front ended the growing season (at least in Kentucky) on the morning of November 11. This story has been updated to reflect the changed growing season length. We came close, by two days, from setting an all-time record. This year is the second-longest growing season on record. In much of the […]

Photo by Erin Barnhill

Venerable Trees Field Course

We had a wonderful Field Course in Lexington, a tour of some of Lexington’s finest trees. Our friend Erin Barnhill was kind enough to share some of her photos of the trip.

Emerald ash borer

Extinction Before Our Eyes

We rarely see plants or animals become extinct before our eyes. Extinction is often something far away and abstract – it happened long ago or far away. Yet right now before our eyes, one of the most important groups of trees is vanishing. Ash trees, in the genus Fraxinus, are rapidly disappearing, and there is […]

Chinkapin oak

Here are a few of my favorite trees

Lexington is home to an astonishing number of very large, very old trees. Many of these trees were here before the city was settled and represent the original vegetation of the Bluegrass. As the city grew, the native woodland pastures were cleared for development, but the finest trees were often kept in yards, parks and […]

Oak leaf

Leaves Are Wearing Out

Have a look at the leaves of trees around you. Chances are pretty good that they don’t look healthy. Fading leaves with holes and other insect signs, mold and other fungi and a generally bedraggled look are normal at this time of year.  What is wrong with the tree? Probably nothing. Leaves look bad at […]

Photo by Flickr user Torbakhopper

Trees in the Eclipse

The total eclipse of August 21 is rightfully attracting huge attention. Towns along the totality band will be flooded with people anxious to experience this rare event. Most of us, wearing our eclipse-safe glasses, will be looking upward to watch the complex but short-lived changes in the sun as the moon passes over.  But you […]

Lexington’s amazing trees

I have lived in and near Lexington for about 35 years. As a careful observer of trees, I have always been amazed at the number of very large trees. This became the subject of my first book, Venerable Trees – History, Biology and Conservation in the Bluegrass.  Since 2005, we have been working with landowners […]

The Sensory World of Trees

Spring is the time when trees compel our attention. With buds opening, leaves growing, flowers emerging, trees seem to call out to us, even if we ignored them all winter. Trees have also been very much in the news in the last few years for three main reasons: 1) the continued loss of forests in […]

Photo by Katherine Williams Shaw

Blue Ash and the Emerald Ash Borer

Until recently, we have been telling you that blue ash, Fraxinus quadrangulata, appears to be resistant to emerald ash borer, Agrilus planipennis. This is important because blue ash is the most abundant ancient tree in our woodland pastures. The emerald ash borer is devastating our white and green ash trees. See our previous story about […]

Chinkapin oak

The Three Sisters

Griffith Woods Wildlife Management Area is a magical place of huge, ancient trees. Some of our favorites are the chinkapin oaks that we call the Three Sisters. Katherine Shaw took this nice picture of the Three Sisters. These are very large, very old trees. However, unlike the kingnut trees that surround them, these chinkapin oaks do […]

Black Vultures in Trees

Vultures are a daily site throughout the Bluegrass. The majority are turkey vultures, but in recent years there has been a gradual increase in the population of black vultures, Coragyps atratus. This is significant because, while turkey vultures are strictly scavengers, black vultures are both scavengers and predators. Although tales of them attacking grown livestock […]

Bur oak

Flying Over a Bur Oak

Today, the Venerable Trees staff worked with Beard House Media to get our first drone inspection of a huge bur oak.  It is very difficult to estimate the volume of a big tree, or to inspect it for potential problems.  Aerial or satellite photos often lack detail.  Today, our friend Jeremiah Oschwald from Beard House […]

Aerial photo

Losing woodland pastures

The Lexington Herald-Leader published this aerial photograph of the future Fayette Mall in 1967. The photo clearly shows and extensive woodland pasture, with a mix of large, old trees and smaller hedgerow trees. Today, only a single tree, the Tiverton Oak, remains of this woodland pasture. Fayette County has lost a tremendous number of trees […]

Ancient Trees at the Urban Boundary

 The margin between urban and rural areas is an area of constant change. In most cities, development rapidly gobbles up rural land, including its forests. In Lexington, Kentucky, strict land use regulations have slowed this trend.  It is at the edge of the city that we can most closely watch and learn from the impacts […]

Persimmon fruit

Gender identity and the mystery of the persimmon fruit

What does gender mean? We know that human gender is a broad and fluid landscape within which people choose to identify themselves. This is increasingly recognized as a healthy and welcoming way to think about who we are. Gender fluidity is true in many animal species, perhaps the majority.  But what about plants?The photograph above is […]

Rethinking Urban Forestry in Lexington

The urban forest of Lexington includes a remarkably large number of very large, very old trees, may of them predating the existence of the cities. These trees are now in trouble. Many of them are unhealthy because of neglect, poor management decisions, and old age. We need to change the way we view and manage these […]

Field Course – Ancient Trees of Fayette County

Fayette County, Saturday October 1, 9am-12pm.  This course will focus on urban remnants of the original woodland pastures of the Bluegrass. We will begin at Veteran’s Park, a fascinating mix of very old woodland pasture trees and woodlands that have since become established.  Our walk will include the famous Veteran’s Oak, and we will examine the […]

Gosnold on Cuttyhunk

America’s First Export

In 1602, Captain Bartholemew Gosnold set sail from Falmouth, England on the barque Concord, making land on the Maine coast and searching southward along the coast to the island of Cuttyhunk, Massachusetts. A year later, Captain Martin Pring set out on a similar voyage aboard the pinnace Speedwell, sailing down the Maine and Massachusetts coast to Martha’s Vineyard.  Pring […]