The towering tree was a full century old when Daniel Boone first set foot in Kentucky. Now the stately bur oak in the curve of Scottish Trace and Iris Cove in northeast Lexington needs some help.
On Wednesday, arborists began pruning the tree's dead limbs, the first step in a two-week project commissioned by Blackford Oaks Home owners Association to give the 300-year-old tree a brighter future.
Association president Alicia McGuire said the plan complies with the wishes of the land's original owners to preserve the tree.
"When they sold the land to the developers, the stipulation was, 'Do not take out the bur oak,"' McGuire said. "The tree has so much history behind it."
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Consulting arborist Dave Leonard, whose company is doing the work, said recent years have not been kind to the venerable tree. A sewer line installation heavily damaged its root system some years back, and it was struck by lightning about two years ago, he said.
The tree, which is 6 feet in diameter, will continue to decline unless it gets attention, Leonard said.
Once pruning is completed, workers will use "air-tilling" equipment to loosen and aerate compacted soil in a circle 100 feet in diameter around the tree's base.
Then, volunteers from the homeowners' association will cover the treated soil with a layer of newspapers. Wood chips, made from the dead limbs pruned from the tree, will be spread over the newspapers. Organic fertilizer will be added to provide nourishment.
During Wednesday's pruning, Leonard learned something surprising about the tree: It's not a pure bur oak.
"It's a natural cross between a white oak and a bur oak," he said. "It has white oak leaves and bur oak acorns. That's pretty cool."
According to Leonard, white oaks can cross with other trees fairly readily in nature.
If the rescue work goes well, Leonard said, the white oak-bur oak could show increased growth by next year.