A magnificent bur oak growing in a pasture in Woodford County, KY has lessons for us about managing old trees. Our Chief Scout, Jason DeBold, found this tree.
The tree is a huge old bur oak that lost its top a long time ago, probably to lightning. Like many old trees, this tree has completely recovered by building a new crown. This process, sometimes called retrenchment, is very common in old in the Bluegrass. The tree now resembles many of the ancient European oaks.
This tree has some important lessons for our management of venerable trees. Lightning strikes are very common in trees in woodland pastures but are rarely fatal. Left to their own devices, lightning struck trees can rebuild a new crown and can live a very long life. The second lesson is that crowns are not permanent structures in old trees – they are easily replaced.