by Claire O’Neill
Photographer Cedric Pollet travels the world, barking up trees for a living. Like this peeling orange-red madrone found on the west coast of North America:
Shelby Farms Park Conservancy wrapped up its One in a Million tree contest this week. Twenty trees were nominated. Each was significant due to size, age, historical or natural relevance, or personal significance to the nominator.
The winning entry was submitted by Mr. Lee Millar of Collierville, current owner of a pecan tree that is estimated to be 275 years old. Realizing that the tree was rare, Mr. Millar contacted an arborist for advice on maintaining the tree and to determine the tree’s age. “After researching the history of the site with two of Collierville’s town historians, and reviewing old land deeds and grants,” said Mr. Millar, “I discovered that the property was given as a land grant to its earliest recorded owner following his service in the revolutionary war. A log cabin was built under the tree, which would have already been large enough to provide shade at that time.”
“What we realized during this contest,” said Laura Adams, Executive Director of Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, “is that people form strong attachments to the trees in their lives. Multiple generations might grow up under one walnut tree. This contest was a way for people to celebrate the gift those trees give to them.”
The contest was part of Shelby Farms Park’s One Million Trees program. Through this program, trees will be planted at Shelby Farms Park to improve Park ecosystems, create and connect wildlife habitat, shade trails, and mitigate noise and pollution from vehicular traffic. Trees will also be planted in communities throughout the Memphis metropolitan area to enhance the region’s urban forest and improve air quality.
Although the following trees were not official contest entries (one tree is in California, and the other was the second of two nominations by one person) they were nonetheless interesting and worthy of posting.
He has three lines of defense. He exudes a chemical which kills competing plants, can drop nuts on your head if you are not respectful, and you will trip over nuts on the ground under him. In return he provides flavor and oral gratification for the best ice cream that ever passed your lips.
-Carl Wayne Hardeman
Mt. Shasta is a punishing 14,210 foot mountain situated at the southern end of the Cascades in Northern California. The weather can be brutal with gale-force winds, deep snow, dangerous thunderstorms , and torrential run-offs from glaciers and snow pack. Even in July 2009 while mountain climbing, a blizzard came in from the southwest just over and between the twin summits of Shasta and Shastina. Winds were sustained at 40-50 miles per hour and gusting at about 75 miles per hour, and snow and ice pelted anything in its path like needles. With these conditions it is amazing to see anything living much less sustaining life on Mt. Shasta. One image of a twisted, mangled root system was, to at least one man on our team of five mountaineers, a testimony to the harsh and violent conditions on Mt. Shasta. The tree appears dead and nothing more than drift wood with splintered roots, but a closer examination revealed life, a new growth. Just inside the large, sturdy trunk is a new tree! The sapling springs up in resilience nearly fully protected inside the enclosure of its predecessor. The chance at life in a harsh and unpredictable climate like Mt. Shasta’s ecosystem is questionable at best, but this little sap has better than a chance to live and grow because of the shelter and nutrients left to it by its cousin.
Although it is not in Shelby County, Tennessee, the trees, in the attached image, do deserve an honorable mention among trees, both the ancient and the younger. My thought is that this image from another eco-system could inspire countless numbers of us to understand just how precious life is and how we can be stewards of God’s gift by buying, planting, and tending to trees in our park. A tree within a tree certainly illustrates the idea that trees are “the silent givers” and further the opportunity that we have at Shelby Farms to give back and provide for more life.
- Lamar Frizzel
A Woodland Tree Company licensed arborist examined the tree (it’s healthy) and determined its age to be approximately 275 years old. It was here in Shelby County PRIOR to the Revolutionary War. It is extremely rare for a pecan tree to grow this large or be this old. The land that it is on was originally a land grant given to the first owner in recognition of his service in the Revolutionary War. A log cabin was built beneath the then already large pecan tree and a farm was created around it.
During the Civil War Union troops camped in the area but the tree was spared the soldiers’ need for firewood. The Millar home now sits on the exact spot as the original log cabin — under the shade of that great pecan tree.
Millar Pecan Tree statistics
age: 275 years
circumference at base: 23.9 feet
height 114 ft
width 108 ft
- Lee Millar
With forlorn posture
Oh how you weep and cry
And you always sigh
I feel bad for you
I want to hug you
But with every touch
I get stuck very much
And we weep and weep
But we do it together
- Connor Hofeditz (age 10)
Last summer, I was just coming back to life from a long illness. My family gave me three crepe myrtles. The trees stayed in their buckets too long because I was too weak to plant them. The summer sun scorched the trees. Although two of them clung to life, one tree began to wither and its leaves fell off. I knew just how it felt. I had fought a long hard battle of survival too. That little tree mirrored me. So, just like I prayed for God to completely heal me, I prayed for that little tree to survive and blossom. Miraculously, it survived.
That fall, my family planted my crepe myrtle in front of my window. It reminded me that if God could heal that tree He could heal me. Winter came. Snow covered my little tree, but it held on. That spring when the other trees bloomed, I rushed out every day to see if my tree had blossoms. It still had none after months. Finally, I spotted purple blooms and smiled. While I was waiting on the tree, I had blossomed too. Thank you, family, God, and my little tree for helping me heal!
- Paula Jackson
It was not hard picking that one tree. My uncle and I went for a drive deep into a neighborhood off North Parkway. He had been recently diagnosed with a terminal cancer. It was a quiet drive until he pounded his fist on the door and grinned a gold crown grin. He brought us to a school. “I can’t believe it’s still there! That Tree!” I imagined it would be the tree that witnessed a first kiss or where he studied. I am quite the naive person. “That’s the tree that I kicked someone’s a** under!” Another story involving broken noses and black eyes. “I can’t believe it’s still there.” I could see the dirt rolling in the wind and the roots tripping up the feet of the unruly school children. I could see them both taking refuge under its forgiving shade but pine needle punishment. The dust trailed as we drove back home. I shared the story with my dad after my Uncle passed. He looked at me and snickered, that’s the tree that he got his a** kicked under. Which makes it even more entertaining, because that’s how he would have planned it. – Mandy Dodson
It’s an almost unavoidable tree if you’re leaving Shelby Farms’ via the south exit, and glance north near the exit turn after the levee or stables at sunset. It has its own little world on top of a slight hill there, and I know I can’t be the only person to notice it. Ablaze with the sun setting behind it and putting me in a good ole’ mood, you’re 1 in a Million dude. – Jeff Waldrup
My Favorite Tree
It is a dogwood tree. It is on 4846 Lynbar Avenue. It reminds me of the dogwood tree I had at my old house. It may have the least leaves, but it is still my favorite. It looks nice with the green grass at my house. I have the front window so I can sometimes see it. I hope it doesn’t fall down. When we got it I was really happy. I think that it is the best tree that I ever saw. You will probably like it too. My mom really likes plants, so she plants lots of things. She planted the tree. It may even be her favorite. Every day I water it.
- Paul Adkins (3rd grade)
This black walnut tree stands just outside my kitchen window. It was on this hill when my grandparents moved here in 1929, so it has been a member of my family for over 80 years. I believe the tree is at least 100 years old; its girth at four feet is 110 inches. Not especially tall, it has a magnificent wing span as you can see from this winter 2009 photo. My summer photos don’t do it justice. However, in the summer it provides the coolest outdoor site on the hill, and we sit under it to shell peas, snap beans or shuck corn. And sometimes just to rest from chores and enjoy the ever-present breeze. The tree produces plenty of fruit which I gladly share with the squirrels which scamper from limb to limb. Many years ago, chickens scratched and pecked under it, and I climbed up in it. More recently, its limbs have provided support for swings – for grands and great-grands. Its location provides a handy spot for my potting bench and a place to relax while cooking outdoors. Visitors are always impressed as they view the tree and marvel at its natural beauty.
- Penny Glover