Venerable Trees of the Bluegrass

With spring well underway and Earth Day steadily approaching, today seemed like a great day to share some beautiful and green places to visit in Lexington as the nature of the bluegrass slowly returns back to life. The trees on this list are called venerable trees. UPK author Tom Kimmerer describes a venerable tree as one of “great age and value.” Despite the mass amount of urban development that has taken off in the past century, some of these ancient beauties are still close to home. Check out these venerable trees that could be in your neighborhood:

The Kissing Tree at Transylvania University


The Kissing Tree at Transylvania University is a huge white ash with a wooden bench around its trunk. It is not a presettlement tree but probably became established either naturally or by planting some time in the 1800s. In the years before 1960, when public displays of affection were not tolerated on college campuses, the Kissing Tree was the one place where holding hands and discreet kissing were not met with a rebuke. Although its role as a facilitator of romance is not as critical today, the Kissing Tree is revered as part of the rich history of the college.

Bur Oak at Commonwealth Stadium


Many tailgate parties have taken place under this tree. Unfortunately, it has sustained extensive mower damage and decay. The fungus is Laetiporus cincinnatus, sometimes called chicken of the woods. The fungus causes decay of heartwood. By itself, the fungus would not be fatal, but ongoing, repeated mower injury has severely wounded the tree. Note the hole caused by boring beetles. Other wood decay fungi are present as well.

Hamburg Giant Grove OldSchoolhouse

The Hamburg development, a large horse farm developed into housing and shopping areas in Lexington, has preserved many venerable trees in or near floodplains, where they will be undisturbed. The Hamburg area is only partly developed, and there are many trees remaining in the existing farmland that could be preserved and become landmarks for their neighborhoods. Tom Kimmerer refers to this area as the Hamburg Giant Grove because it includes dozens of exceptionally large trees, some of the largest remaining trees in Fayette County.

The Old Schoolhouse Oak



Not many trees make it onto the front page of their local paper, but the Old Schoolhouse Oak has done it many times. One of the largest bur oaks in the Bluegrass, and probably one of the oldest, is along the same road as the Ingleside Oak, the old buffalo trace. It is a more discreet tree, less apparent to passersby as it sits on a hill above the road. Until recently, few people were aware of the tree, but today the whole city knows it well.



For more information on where to find venerable trees in the bluegrass, be sure to check out Venerable Trees: History, Biology, and Conservation in the Bluegrass by Tom Kimmerer.



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