I heard of this magnificent white oak several years ago and knew we had to see it. The statistics indicated it to be 400 years old and 98 feet tall! There was nothing to really nail down its location, just in the Niagara area. Then finally the big break – Forests Ontario accepted it as a heritage tree. The tree had been discovered in 2012 while investigating the anniversary of the war of 1812.
My interest grew in this tree as I read the history of the tree from the Forests Ontario website.
‘ This white oak is the official boundary marker in the first land deed Upper Canada signed in 1781 between the Chippawa and Mississauga Native Chiefs and the English Crown. The deed was for a four mile wide strip of land, paralleling the Niagara river, on the west side, running from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie. The land was transferred to King George for 300 suites of clothing.
In order to mark the boundary of the land, the four First Nations Chiefs chose a large white oak tree, forked 6 feet from the ground near Lake Ontario at a distance of 4 miles from the west bank of the Niagara river. The actual document was signed by the First Nations as the follows:
the mark of Nanibizure a Chippawa – a swan
the mark of Paghquan a Mississauga – a bear
the mark of Wabacanine a Mississauga – an eagle
the mark of Menaghquah – a Mississauga – a duck ‘
Eventually, I got in contact with Forests Ontario, but they seemed wary to give out exact locations since the oak was considered on private property. After going back and forth and explaining our ancient tree program, Forests Ontario got the land owner to contact us. All I can say is that this white oak is very lucky to have this couple as its champion. They were extremely excited about meeting us and getting their tree into a breeding program.
The day we met it was supposed to be sunny but ended up being rainy and cold. It was November. I was just excited to actually make contact and, finally, be able to view the tree. After a lovely greet and meet we went to the tree. I almost fell over in sheer surprise. Not only did the tree dominate the landscape but it was masting in a drought year. Acorns were inches deep all over. Never did I think that we would be able to collect acorns – some trees may wait up to 7 years to mast. Since we never travel without plastic bags, we gathered up 200 germinated acorns and quickly took them back to the nursery for immediate planting.
Sometimes hard work and sleuthing do pay off!