Oak tree at Henry Ford Estate cited as 'hero of horticulture' by the Cultural Landscape Foundation's Landslide Program.

April 23, 2008

Karen Marzonie in front of the bur oak tree at the Henry Ford Estate

DEARBORN / April 23, 2008---The large bur oak tree at the Henry Ford Estate on the campus of the University of Michigan-Dearborn has been recognized as one of 21 “Heroes of Horticulture” sites by the Cultural Landscape Foundation’s Landslide Program, and will be featured as part of three local exhibitions this summer.

The Landslide program is a yearly designation of significant landscapes at risk of being lost, according to a Cultural Landscape Foundation press release. It “highlights significant horticultural features that have stood steadfast in the face of almost insurmountable natural and cultural odds and because of that, borne witness to the heritage of our nation.” The designees are chosen from hundreds of nominations that highlight current issues in landscape preservation and interpretation.

The bur oak, located in the lower level of the Fair Lane property near the Rouge River, is estimated to be more than 300 years old, according to Karen Marzonie, landscape manager at the Estate. “The bur oak became the center of the Estate’s vegetable garden during the Ford family tenure, and though the garden has long since vanished, the oak remains. The species is native to Michigan but there are relatively few remaining bur oaks of this age in the southeastern portion of the state.”

The tree has been severely damaged by lightning strikes over the years, but stands as a witness to the changes that have occurred on the site, including Native American use; the clearing of the land by 19th-century farmers; the purchase of the site by Henry Ford; and the development of the property by celebrated landscape architect Jens Jensen.

“For our visitors, the bur oak has become an essential link to connect with the region's past, to learn about pre-and early-settlement land use as well as the Ford’s enjoyment of the site and Jensen's conscientious integration of the existing tree into this designed landscape,” Marzonie said.

The “Heroes of Horticulture” signboard exhibition will be on display at UM-Dearborn's Environmental Interpretive Center from May 20 through June 3; at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor from June 7 through June 22; and the Henry Ford Centennial Library Rotunda Gallery from July 7 through Aug. 15.

The exhibition will provide the history of each horticultural specimen, the threat, information on how to support the feature, and associated historic and current photographs of each resource.

In addition, a portion of the exhibit will be on display at the Estate from May 9 through May 18. Tour times and additional information can be found at the Estate’s Web site, www.henryfordestate.org.

 

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