Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Arkansas oak update

A forester in Arkansas has been doing me the favor of trying to track down the Arkansas oak (Q. arkansana) in Howard County, Ark. that held the title as National Champion until it was usurped in 1997 by a Covington County, MS tree of dubious identity (an Oak Watch correspondent on the scene believes the MS tree is simply a wider leafed water oak variant).

Turns out the Howard County tree is no longer with us.  However, a different Arkansas oak, this one located in Saline County, Ark. is now under consideration as at least the new Ark. state champ, and perhaps national champ.  Measurements are being finalized.

I couldn't resist searching on Saline County Arkansas + oak trees, and found this:
http://www.jstor.org/pss/40019238.  To quote heavily:

"The Saline County group of the First Arkansas Infantry Volunteers in the War Between the States was organized at Benton, in April 1861.  The company congegrated at the home of Johann Wilhelm Shoppach, on North Main Street, under a virgin oak tree, where they were presented with a Confederate flag, which had been made by the women of the Shoppach family.  From there, 'midst the blessings of their friends and the weeping of their families, they marched on to Little Rock so rapidly that they had the distinction of being the first company of volunteers to reach the designated rendezvous.

"The Company was named Company E, First Arkansas Infantry Volunteers, and in the organization, James F. Fagan was elected Captain and commanding officer.  When the company became part of a regiment, Fagan was commissioned a Colonel; and it was under his command that the group journeyed to Virginia, reaching there in time to engage in the first serious conflict of the war - the First Battle of Bull Run, fought July 21, 1861.

"After this Confederate victory, the Arkansas Company was sent to a spot about ten miles west of Fredericksburg, Virginia, where they were encamped on Acquia Creek, a tributary of the Rappahannock River, to keep the Yankee gun boats from ascending the streams and to prevent Federal Burnside and his men from crossing westward."

I'm having trouble seeing through the subtle, unbiased prose to ascertain the sympathies of the writer.

It is clear, however, that Saline County gave mightily to the war effort, and that the war took a huge toll on the area and its best and brightest young men; 36 died at Shiloh alone.

Makes me wish that the Arkansas oak growing in rememerance of their sacrifice truly does become the rightful national champ.  Even if I still don't believe Q. arkansana is truly a species.

And in case you thought I missed it:  Virgin oak tree?  Does that its acorns immaculate??

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