Tree of the Month – Oak

Fall is a great time of year to admire the beauty found in nature, but some of the most understated species when it comes to fall color can be some of our most ecologically valuable species, and that’s why we’re celebrating OAKtober and National Neighborwoods Month during the Month of October here at Crown Hill.

Oak trees are some of the largest and longest-lived trees found native to Indiana, and they make up a good portion of the list of the largest trees you will see at Crown Hill Cemetery. With their large stature, heavily textured bark, and leaves that stay in place until late fall, these trees provide some of the greatest benefits in cooling the community around us, cleaning our air and water, reducing energy use, and being a beautiful and inspiring part of our community. So much so that the Arbor Day Foundation celebrates all oak trees in October for being great neighbors in and around our communities across the country.

Oak trees play a critical role in supporting plant and animal communities across Indiana and the world. Many partners in urban forestry and conservation are working to promote the important role oaks play, including being a primary habitat for over 500 caterpillar species (as researched by author and professor Doug Tallamy). Caterpillars are critical food for many nesting bird species and reaches farther up the food chain, supporting mammals directly with their mast of acorns in the fall/winter.

Indiana is host to 20 distinct native species of oak (ref. Marion T. Jackson’s book, 101 Trees of Indiana).

Research is finding that oaks need our help too! Globally, more than one third of all oak species are threatened with extinction. Weather extremes caused by climate change are making it harder for large mature trees to survive and for young trees to establish in the landscape. With the extra stress of human activates in urban areas like construction and heavy machinery use, our oaks really need some support.

Crown Hill is taking steps now to become an even better partner in caring for our trees and our community by looking at ways we can provide better care for our mature oaks on site and recognizing the asset we have in our big trees. We are partnering with a local nursery to grow new oak trees from the seed (acorns) collected on site so the next generation of oaks at Crown Hill and beyond will be true to the regional genetics.

If you find some exceptional acorns during your visit this fall, we invite you to drop them in a basket attached to the Sweet bench memorial with the little boy statue investigating an acorn on the Crown (Section 61). We love the sentiment on his shirt, “Mighty Oaks from Little Acorns Grow,” and we hope to spur your interest in helping oaks grow in Indianapolis and across Indiana.

Crown Hill Foundation staff will be periodically collecting the acorns from the basket to test their viability, and your little acorn may find its way back to the site as a future tree planting at Crown Hill or in the neighborhoods surrounding the cemetery.

Want to know how you can help support our large mature trees? Visit Trees in Need.

Check out Crown Hill Foundation on Facebook as we dive a little deeper in highlighting awesome Oaks in October.