The Veteran Oak in Lexington is one of the most iconic trees in the city. A magnificent bur oak, it lies along a popular walking path on the south side of town. The Veteran Oak is a left-behind, the only ancient tree in a young riparian (stream-side) forest. Most of the ancient left-behind trees are on dry uplands, like the Old Schoolhouse Tree. The Veteran’s Park Oak is on a stream bank and benefits from high soil moisture and intermittent flooding.
The tree is in excellent condition. It has a few dead branches and lost its top at some time. This is normal for very old trees, and the dead branches and hollows provide habitat for a wide range of animals and fungi. Young trees around the old oak are beginning to grow into its canopy. Sometime soon, in the next few years, we will need to thin the trees around the Veteran’s Park Oak to give its lower crown more sunlight. This technique of removing smaller trees to concentrate growth on larger trees is called ‘thinning from below’, also sometimes called ‘haloing’, though I prefer the former term. The path that goes by the tree on the creek side is causing some soil compaction, and should be closed.
Here is a photograph of the entire tree. This is a composite of 36 individual photos stitched together.