I was first introduced to my tree, the beautiful swamp white oak, by Dickinson College arborist Mark Scott. It was a sunny but extremely humid September day, however, my tree’s large, rounded leaves provided me with the shade to help cool me off. My tree is located close to the center of the academic quad along a pathway leading to Bosler Hall. Native to the midwestern United States, with some isolated populations in the northeast, southeast and Canada, the swamp white oak can reach heights of about 50 to 60 feet and live a relatively long life. This particular swamp white oak is 44 feet tall and is only 20 years old.
The tree has grayish-brown bark with lots of ridges and cracks making it very rough to the touch. Its leaves are rather large with rounded lobes. During the spring and summer, the leaves are a darkish green color on top and is silvery white underneath. During the fall, the leaves will change colors to yellow and red.
The swamp white oak does well in urban settings as well on suburban streets and in parks. They also do well in low-lying areas near swamps, ponds and lakes. Thus, it does well in a variety of soils, particularly in moist, acidic soils with a lot of sunlight.
Aldo Leopold references an oak tree in A Sand County Almanac. Leopold describes the process of sawing through an oak tree and the years that it has lived on a farm that was destroyed by a bootlegger. Leopold describes that the bootlegger destroyed the farm even though the oak tree had “laid down good wood for him.” This represents how humans should respect the trees (oaks) that give us so much.
I am really looking forward to spending more time with my tree this semester and to observe its physical transition into fall!
Leopold, Aldo. A Sand County Almanac: And Sketches Here and There. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1949. Print.