As a former student at UW-Madison, I remember this tree and the grand stories about it being shot at with cannonballs by Civil War soldiers from Camp Randall as target practice. (Camp Randall is the current site of the football stadium, several miles from the site) This turned out to be a myth but a good story none–the–less. It certainly fed my young, student’s imagination. The tree was there before all the other human icons of the university established their reputations. The great conservationists John Muir and Aldo Leopold both studied nearby. The botanists John Curtis and Hugh Iltis had to be aware of the tree. Ed Hasselkus, the world-famous Horticulturist, showed it to me. Is it just a coincidence that this tree lived in the presence of such great plant people? I like to think that the mighty ‘President’s Oak’ had some influence on them.
Several years ago, I took scions (cuttings) off of the iconic tree as its health had begun to deteriorate. I was able to successfully graft them onto several seedling Bur Oaks, resulting in 3 new ‘President Oak’ trees. My wish, which will be granted in the upcoming year, is to have one of these trees planted on the campus so that the legend can continue even though the mother tree has passed away.
This story explains why I and many other people love oak trees so much. They have a way of connecting with people through their strength, durability, and majesty. In Wisconsin, we are blessed to have native Bur Oaks and several other fantastic Oaks species growing in our midst.
Following are the stories of Wisconsin’s native oaks that we have grown at Johnson’s Nursery: