Duncan Park is located at the corner of North Limestone Street and Fifth Street, and encompasses about five acres. This beautiful big Bur Oak stands near the entrance and has a DBH of 66.5 inches. This neighborhood park has a number of mature large trees, including red oaks and more Bur Oaks. Also located in this park is the William Morton House built in 1810, which is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. In 1838 this house was bought by the abolitionist Cassius Clay, who published Lexington's first abolitionist newspaper, which he called The True American. In the 1850's Henry T. Duncan, who later became mayor, bought the house and put considerable effort into maintaining the grounds. The property became a city park about 1912 with a design from the Fredrick Olmstead firm. Sadly Duncan Park was designated a whites only park by the state until 1956. For some time now the Morton House has been occupied by the Center for Women, Children, and Families. The city is currently considering selling the house to this organization. The first Peace Walk of 2021 was held in Duncan Park on Saturday April 24th.
Duncan Park Bur Oak
When Kentucky Statesman Henry Clay purchased 600+ acres just outside of Lexington in 1804, he decided to name it Ashland in honor of the Blue Ash trees on the property. Blue Ash (Fraxinus quadrangulata) is a member of the olive family, and has twigs that typically have four corky ridges giving them a square appearance, hence the species name, quadrangulata, meaning four angled. Blue Ash are either female, with flowers & seeds, or male, with no seeds. The large male Blue Ash at Ashland is located closer to Richmond Road near the corner of Woodspoint Road and has a DBH of 60.4 inches. The female Blue Ash is located off Woodspoint Road near Ashwood Road, and has a DBH of 57 inches. Both of these Blue Ash trees have an estimated age of over 250 years, older than the original purchase of the property by Henry Clay.
The name Blue Ash was given to this tree because it has a gelatinous substance on its inner bark that turns blue when exposed to air. It was used by the early European settlers as a blue dye to color yarn. Blue Ash trees have a gray platy bark, grow in limestone soils and are drought tolerant. They are often seen in our Bluegrass region alongside Bur Oaks and Chinquapin Oaks in horse or cattle pastures. It has also been observed that healthy Blue Ash trees seem to be resistant to the Emerald Ash Borer, that has killed most untreated ash trees in our area. This resistance might be due to the fact that Blue Ash are genetically and physiologically different from other types of ash trees. Another large Blue Ash tree is located close to these trees at the corner of Ashwood Road and Barrow Road.
The Blue Ash Trees At Ashland
Marcia Lamont Hopkins @2021
The McConnell Springs Oak
The giant Bur Oak tree at McConnell springs is estimated to be at least 250 years old. This beauty thrived due to the Oak Savannah system that was prevalent in the Bluegrass region. Oak trees such as this one survived thanks to low competition from other trees in addition to the open fields surrounding them.
This gorgeous oak was even alive in 1775 when the McConnell party made a camp in the area now known as McConnell Springs. By this tree is where they decided to name the new settlement Lexington after the Battle of Lexington in Massachusetts.
Through a long chronology of events and changes, the tree has thrived, though one side of its branches have grown out and over a pedestrian path. Prior to this project, the tree was not able to provide itself the support needed to counterbalance these large branches. Professionals had climbed the tree to determine if installing a cable system would be the answer, however, they instead noticed that the core of the tree is hollow, compounding the problem. To create the necessary support and keep the Bur Oak from falling over, a collaboration between LFUCG arborists, the Citizen’s Environmental Academy, University of Kentucky Interior Design faculty and students, as well as local Tree Specialists and a Metal Artist, elicited the design and installation of a unique tree crutch that signifies the reciprocal relationship between man and nature.
The Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa) ranges from Manitoba and Nova Scotia, west to Wyoming and Kansas, and south to Texas. Nowhere does it grow better than in the Bluegrass of Kentucky. It was named bur oak in 1801 by Francois Michaux, a French explorer and botanist, when he documented many of the oaks in Kentucky.
An outstanding example of the bur oak is growing on a former buffalo (bison) trace in Lexington known currently as Harrodsburg Road. It is 63” in diameter and over 300 years old, predating the arrival of white settlers. It is hollow and has housed many generations of groundhogs and foxes over the years. The Schoolhouse Bur Oak is named for the South Elkhorn Elementary School that was active prior to 1887 and taught students through the Depression and into WWII.
There used to be two large bur oaks on this site. The larger one fell 20 years ago, crushing a car but not harming anyone. In 2008 the area was slated for development and the tree was to be removed. Many residents spoke against the plan and the developer agreed to move a road to save the tree. The Schoolhouse Oak enjoyed a respite as the housing market collapsed and the project was abandoned.
In 2013 another developer, Ball Homes, wished to develop the area. This time they consulted with several arborists and street layouts were adjusted to save the tree. It was placed in a mulched preservation area, was pruned to remove deadwood, and had a lightning protection system installed in it. As inspected in January of this year the mulch circle is now covered with fescue and the lightning system is in need of maintenance. The preservation efforts need to be renewed and maintained.
The Old Schoolhouse Oak