Historic osage-orange tree

“I have some bad news. The city of Kewanee [Illinois] will take down the big hedge tree on Tuesday. Safety hazard they say.”

Even though the tree is not a beauty, and its location is not scenic, this story has a happy ending due to the diligence of a dedicated arborist and the speed of email communication.

The osage-orange tree is the lone survivor of a hedgerow planted c. 1840, a concept promoted by Illinois College professor Jonathan Baldwin Turner that became the shelterbelt system saving America’s soils from the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Because of its significance, Illinois arborist Guy Sternberg led a rally to preserve the 170-year-old tree.

Guy first heard of the tree’s fate on Nov. 21 from the email quoted above, just days before its scheduled removal. He quickly forwarded the email to 250 of his ‘green’ contacts and asked, “How many of you …can jump on this, contact Kewanee, and help persuade them to step back and think it over a little more?”

How many? He received about 50 emails within a 48-hour period, and the city received about 40 emails from arborists, forestry professors, and other professionals contributing their expert opinions and support. Others from across the country offered the city donations and technical assistance to help preserve the tree.

At the end of the two-day email blitz, the tree was saved.

The campaign to preserve the tree branched out into other forms of electronic communication. Two blogs, one on the Better Homes and Garden website and another on the Plantra website, include pictures of the tree after safety pruning on November 24. Also online are articles from the Star Courier newspaper and three podcast interviews with Guy Sternberg recorded on the Home Grown Tomatoes channel at Justin.tv.com. The tree even has its own “Save the Osage-Orange Tree in Kewanee, IL” Facebook page with over 130 fans, including the mayor of Kewanee. Donations to the “Kewanee Osage-Orange Fund” are also accepted through PayPal.

Preservation of a historic tree such as the osage-orange is just short of a miracle. Trees are among the least-understood historic features, often removed because of safety fears or to make way for new construction.

If not for the Internet, would the tree have been saved? Perhaps…but it’s doubtful. The speed of electronic communication quickly brought together a qualified and committed community ready to address the city’s safety concerns and provide assistance for the tree’s long-term preservation.

So, how rare is this? Anyone heard of any other historic trees saved by electronic communication?

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10 Responses to Speedy E-mails Save a Historic Tree in Illinois

  1. Jackie Lee says:

    This is a fantastic story and really shows the immense power of social media and the ability to make the entire world your ally and neighbor. Yay for the tree!

  2. George Williams says:

    What a great story! A tree saved by emails, blogs and social media. That must be a first. I hate seeing trees cut down at all, let alone a tree with this kind of historical significance. Ahhh.. the power of the Web. Nice work! This could give other like causes some ideas, so I’ll be Retweeting it. Thanks! @George_Williams

  3. bella lewis says:

    it’s good to know that there are people who value a tree like that. Indeed, technology is a very powerful tool.

  4. Vic Piercy says:

    I love this story! First of all it always bothers me to hear that we need to pull an old historic tree for any reason. This Country has very little history and always seems to put it in the backseat for new construction. I have seen this happen with some very large Oak Trees before.

    This shows the power of Social Media today.

  5. Jason Wright says:

    This is truly amazing story and I think it have shown the power of social media and the impact of the social media I think its a great idea that can also help us to solve some other social and environmental related issues great..

  6. Tina Traver says:

    Love this story! I live in awe of the majesty of historic trees and woodland. We can never back down from saving our history and thank goodness for the technology that saved this one!

  7. Angus - Effective Internet Marketing says:

    Good on Guy Sternberg for putting social media to such good use so quickly! I’m really glad the tree was saved.

  8. Jodi Albertini says:

    As an Illinois resident, I found this artcle not only interesting, but inspiring, too!

  9. Gail J Richardson says:

    This is a great story.This shows the power of social media.I’m glad the tree was saved.

  10. xenki says:

    hey thanks very great story you really know a lot about social media

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