Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on July 6, 1975 · Page 158
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July 6, 1975

Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 158

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Charleston, West Virginia
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Sunday, July 6, 1975
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Page 158
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3/ooms from "Independence Tree." Seeds will be retrieved this (all and nurtured in Mount Vernon's hothouse for distribution. aHerfllrtt by Fred Blumenthal MOUNT VBCNON, VA. K nerica's Bicentennial celebration belongs to all of us, but it is the hucksters who are making it their own. Every fast buck artist, every gimmick salesman has been cudgeling his brains for a patriotic tie-in. They're ready now, poised for the big push with Revolution keyed tee shirts, with red, white and blue ice cream, even beach chairs and umbrellas with the Bicentennial motif. Somewhere in this onslaught of commercialism, the real meaning of what we are celebrating may have been mislaid. Possibly there is something wrong with commemorating the birthday of Independence with the purchase of still anofher eagle-decorated ashtray. To keep green and Irving the memory of that earlier July 4th, PARADE proposes, as a more appropriate symbol, a tree a very special tree. This particular tree is a native American tulip poplar, a member of the magnolia family, identified by Robert B. Fisher (shown on our coyer), nationally known chief horticulturist of Mount Vemon, as one of the "very fine young poplars" mentioned in the diary of George Washington for January, 1785. "It was selected as a young sapling of perhaps nine or 10 years of age and transplanted by General Washington from the nearby woodlands during February, 1785," says Fisher. Washington's diary bears him out "Planted ... the poplars on the right walk," says the notation for Monday, February 28, 1785, "--the sap of which appeared to be rising." The tree stands there still today, shading the carriage drive to Mount Vemon, a tree that germinated --was in effect bom--with the Declaration of Independence. Millions of visitors since Washington's day have passed beneath it and admired its magnificence--unaware of its history. Today it stands 120 feet tall, a living symbol spanning the years between the American Revolution and today. . Though the tree is 200 years old, it is no weakling. Its taproot goes far into the soil, drinking deep from the moist earth. "A happy tree," Fisher calls this lovely old poplar. "We spray it occasionally for aphkfc., of course, but in general rf s not bothered by insects." Native to the ground on which it stands, the Independence Tree gets no coddling. It is fed only with lawn fertilizer, taking .its nourishment from the sun and the rain and the soft silt loam from the tributaries of the Potomac (However, these trees flourish throughout most of the United States.) This majestic 720-rpot-ta// tu/ip pop/ar was bom 200 years ago along with the Dedaration of Independence and transplanted by George Washington to Mount Vemon where it happily flourishes. Excerpts from Washington's diary that refer to the "very fine^oung poplars." , Over the years it has been pruned many times. Annually, two men work ^ for three days to keep the canopy of leaves overhead from becoming too dense to let through the freshening breezes. Wind could be dangerous to the Independence Tree. It must go through the branches, filtering through the greenery, or the tree, catching the wind like a sail, might be uprooted. Deflects lightning The sun and the rain are life-giving, but sometimes there are storms. To deflect the fury of the lightning, two thumb-sized conductors run the length of the tree on either side, connected to lightning rods and grounded deep into the earth. The cables are buried 50 feet out from each side of the Independence Tree, diffusing the electrical impact The system, supervised by General Electric, has saved the tree many times. In all seasons, the Independence Tree is beautiful. In spring it is covered with large tulip-like blossoms whose petals shade from pale green to a soft orange and yellow lining. From spring to autumn the leaves are a fresh, medium green, changing as the weather cools to patched and spotted gold. "Glory be to God for dappled things," said the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, and he might well have been speaking of the Independence Tree. Fisher plans this fall to capture thousands of tiny seeds of the Independence Tree and take them into his nursery and botanical gardens, where he hopes they will sprout Jt b PARADE'S hope that some of these seedlings will be sent for planting in other states of the union, so that de* scendants of the tree will flourish throughout the nation and the Independence Tree will never truly die. Letters from gardener All through the bitter battles of the Revolutionary War, letters from Mount Vemon signed by the gardener found their way to the headquarters of General Washington. In the darkest hours before the battles of Trenton, Princeton and Valley Forge, he read reports of his garden and the things he knew would survive the war. If Washington were alive today, he would surely be happy to have a report on his Independence Tree. Bob Fisher would have no trouble writing the report T "Your tulip poplar is healthy. It has weathered some severe storms, but is gloriously alive, strong, flourishing." Mount Vernon, home of the Independence Tree, is owned and maintained by the non-profit Mount Vernon Ladies' Association. 19

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