Venerable TreesHistory, Biology, and Conservation in the Bluegrass

Venerable TreesHistory, Biology, and Conservation in the Bluegrass

Tom Kimmerer

Print publication date: 2017

ISBN: 9780813165660

Publisher: University Press of Kentucky

Abstract

When the Bluegrass region of Kentucky was settled, early farmers found natural woodland pastures of open-grown trees shading grass and cane. The same trees that shaded the natural pastures remain with us today, many of them between three hundred and five hundred years old. The horse and livestock farms that make the Bluegrass famous are shaded by these ancient trees; some woodland pastures cover hundreds of acres. There are still many old trees in urban areas, parks, and backyards, remnants of woodland pastures. Natural woodland pastures are extremely rare, found only in the Bluegrass and Nashville Basin in North America, and in several European countries. Venerable Trees is a narrative of the history of these trees from before settlement to today. The origin of the woodland pasture habitat is analyzed, with particular emphasis on the role of drought and the vast herds of bison that were here in the 1700s. Although there are still thousands of ancient trees in the Bluegrass and Nashville Basin, they are disappearing, succumbing to old age, urbanization, and poor management. The present status of the trees is described, and recommendations made to ensure that woodland pastures of ancient trees will continue to characterize the Bluegrass and Nashville Basin long into the future.