Field Note: Ta-Da!!! The Big Oak Stands Free!

The Big Oak at Bear Creek Nature Park after the stewardship crew removed the trees growing beneath its canopy.

Once again, as in its younger years, the big white oak (Quercus alba) near the Center Pond at Bear Creek Nature Park is drenched with sunlight, its roots able to reach more water and benefit from more nutrients. As I explained in a February blog , this winter Dr. Ben VanderWeide and his stewardship crew worked to remove the many smaller trees that had grown up inside the oak’s canopy, causing the lower limbs to weaken and die. A few trees had to be left for now, because they lean toward the viewing platform and will require a frozen pond and careful work to remove at a future date. It took weeks of felling, sawing logs into manageable sizes, chipping branches and hauling it all away to get to this point. But look at it now!

Next summer, the Big Oak will gather in more of the sun’s rays, increasing the strength and health of a tree that may have hundreds more years to live. This magnificent specimen will remove and store even more carbon and breathe out more oxygen. It can host more species of caterpillars high in its greenery in the summer and beneath its leaf litter in the fall and winter, feeding the birds, their young and many other creatures. More birds may find homes on or within it giant limbs. And we humans can more easily appreciate its grandeur on our Bear Creek hikes.

Text and photos by Cam Mannino

So let’s take a minute for a couple of cyber-toasts, shall we? “Long Life to the Big Oak!” And “Cheers for Our Stewardship Crew!” for its care of this glorious, landmark tree!

10 thoughts on “Field Note: Ta-Da!!! The Big Oak Stands Free!

  1. Yes, it does! I’ve heard it’s usually better to plant trees in the fall anyway, when they are finished leafing and are sinking into their roots.

  2. A big win for this magnificent White Oak! Thanks for your reporting on this tree over time, and huge thanks to Ben and his Stewardship crew!

  3. The size and beauty of that oak is even more apparent now! I bet it will be happy to stretch its limbs a little bit 🙂

    • Hi, Dena. I’m so glad you’re inspired to plant an oak. It’s taken me a while to get back to you because I needed to find some resources that you could check out. Buying an oak from most commercial nurseries makes it hard to know if it’s a Michigan genotype. Michigan grown trees will tend to be heartier in our environment than oaks from elsewhere and most commercial nurseries don’t really know where their trees come from. But if finding a Michigan-grown one proves too difficult, a non-Michigan genotype is better than no oak, at least in my opinion! Here, though, is a link to local native plant sales, some of which might have trees.
      Also check out the website of the Oakland Conservation District Tree and Shrub Sale at
      I don’t know if all their trees are Michigan grown.
      I got our little black oak from Wildtype Nursery in Mason, Michigan which sells Michigan grown plants. Look in their retail catalog for Quercus species.
      Please let me know if you find any other good sources and how your sapling is doing once it finds a home at your house!

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