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.
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