September’s Bloom Where You Are Planted Edition
Photo by Paul W. Meyer
Our History at Home offerings typically sprout from history and architecture. Today, and once every month, we offer a conservation cornucopia from the Conservancy and some friends on trees, gardening, and stormwater management. We hope to help you “Bloom Where You Are Planted.”
September – Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa)
by Paul W. Meyer, Conservancy Board Member and
Morris Arboretum’s Retired F. Otto Haas Executive Director
Bur oak is a tall, long lived tree, reaching up to 90’ and with age it may become broader than tall. The specific epithet, macrocarpa, means large fruit, and true to its name, the acorns can be, but are not always, large. The acorn cup is fringed or bur-like, giving rise to another common name, the mossycup oak.  Bur oak is a valuable timber tree as well as handsome landscape specimen.
A stately bur oak dominates the Top of the Hill Center in Chestnut Hill. It was already a mature tree when this shopping center was built circa 1976. The fact that it withstood the disturbance caused by this commercial construction says much about the tenacity of this species. Our Chestnut Hill specimen is a fine example of its typical form of this oak species.
Bur oak is native throughout most of eastern North America, west to Texas and Wyoming. It tolerates both bottomlands and higher droughty soils and is often seen as a lone statuesque tree standing out in the agricultural fields of the Midwest prairie. It is also quite tolerant of alkaline soils, which cause chlorosis (leaf yellowing) in many other oaks. All these characteristics make it a good candidate for street side urban plantings, though here in Philadelphia, it is not yet widely planted. One limitation is that it can be difficult to transplant as a larger tree because of its deep tap root. Several improved cultivars have been selected for street side use. For example, ‘Urban Pinnacle’ was chosen for its upright habit, glossy, dark green leaves and disease resistance.
Bur oak is a good candidate to consider as we plan and plant for climate change. A bur oak planted today might live for several hundred years, so it will have to survive under conditions that are more extreme than today. Climatologists at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science have projected that 60 years from now, the climate in Philadelphia will be similar to the climate of New South Memphis, Tennessee today. Therefore, populations of bur oak from the southwest part of its natural distribution range are likely to be tolerant of more extreme heat and periodic droughts that are likely to become more common in the future.
Next time you are passing by the Top of the Hill, take a moment to observe this magnificent tree, and wish it a long, healthy life into the next century.
Paul W. Meyer
The F. Otto Haas Director, retired
Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania
Chestnut Hill Conservancy is regularly highlighting special trees in our community, both large and small, as well as common and obscure. In doing so we hope to promote an appreciation of our arbor legacy and foster a culture of stewardship and renewal of this invaluable resource.
Visit our History at Home page for more information, and also our new Tree of the Month page!
Photos by Paul W. Meyer:
Top: Canopy of the Morris Arboretum specimen in the morning light.
Second: Detail of leaves and acorn of the bur oak.
Third: Photo showing the Top of the Hill Bur Oak circa 1977, before the demolition of the Suburban Restaurant. Photo courtesy of the Chestnut Hill Conservancy Archives.
Fourth: Recent bur oak photo at the Top of the Hill.
Fifth: Illustration by Pierre Joseph Redoute from The North American Sylva by F. Andrew Michaux published in Philadelphia in 1817
Bottom: Snow covered bur oak growing near gates Hall at the Morris Arboretum.
A Celebration of Color – Zinnias
by Emilie Lapham, Conservancy Board Member, avid gardener, botanical artist, and active participant in several noted local and national garden organizations.
Zinnias are plants that never disappoint. Zinnia is part of the sunflower family and native to the southwest United States to South America. Mexico hosts the center of diversity. Plant some of these arrowhead shaped seeds in a well drained area of the garden and in a few days they will emerge. In only a few weeks, they start to flower and burst into vivid colors. They will bloom for a long time until frost. Seed companies offer many choices from 6” to as tall as 48” in many shapes and vibrant colors.
Deer and rabbits do not love zinnias but butterflies and hummingbirds do. Easy, brilliant, colorful flowers attracting birds and insects, what more could you want?
There is more! They are wonderful flowers for the house. When you cut zinnia blooms you encourage more to grow. Arrange cut flowers with greens from your garden and enjoy them for at least a week. Be sure to remove all the leaves that would be emerged in water.
And still more… remove some spent flower heads from the plant that are fairly dry. When they are dry enough to fall apart when rubbed a bit, collect the dry seeds and put them in labeled envelopes and plant them again next year.
A local resource that is lots of fun is Maple Acres Farm and Market. Maple Acres is a family owned farm since 1916 with fields of zinnias you can pick, and farm animals to visit and a large selection of vegetables and fruit. Maple Acres Farm and Market2656 Narcissa Road, Plymouth Meeting.
All Photos by Emilie Lapham Fields of zinnias at Maple Acres.
September 26 is
Johnny Appleseed Day!
When confronted with the legend of Johnny Appleseed, most people are surprised to discover that this American legend was a living, breathing, historical human being!
It’s true. Far from being simply the stuff of folklore and folk tales, Appleseed (real name: John Chapman) was an American nurseryman who introduced apple trees to the Midwest, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. He was also a conservationist and missionary during the earliest days of the United States.
And yet, despite his living, breathing status, Appleseed was, indeed, a living legend. And Johnny Appleseed Day on September 26 is celebrated in his honor.
Make some cider!
This one seems almost too easy. But in honor of the man for whom Johnny Appleseed Day is named, how about brewing up a home batch of your own tasty apple cider?
Visit Johnny Appleseed’s birthplace
Leominster, Massachusetts, is home to the Johnny Appleseed Visitors Center, the Johnny Appleseed Arts & Culture Festival and, of course, Johnny Appleseed Lane — birthplace of the man himself.
— From the National Today website HERE
Explore the Outdoors with our Community Partners!
Free Interpretation of Plant Forms
Through January 2021
Originally commissioned by the City’s Percent-for-Art program, Bertoia’s fountain was installed in the central plaza of the Philadelphia Civic Center in West Philadelphia in 1967. The sculpture was placed in storage in 2000 when the plaza and the adjacent buildings of the Civic Center were slated for demolition. Conservation of the sculpture will take place on site at Woodmere through the summer, and the public is invited to observe as the sculpture is cleaned and restored to splendor. The sculpture is made through a process Bertoia invented; he would bend commercially obtained copper tubing by hand and weld it together with a bronze alloy.
Sculpture and Nature
WOW! Woodmere’s Outdoor Wonder is an experience of outdoor sculpture in the context of nature and the environmental features of the Museum’s grounds. WOW includes sculpture by significant artists as well as monumental estate trees of the 19th century, a pollinator garden, a rot road, and contemporary stormwater-management features such as a bioswale and step pools. Woodmere continues to develop and integrate the experience of these features across our grounds in a manner that brings art in conversation with environmental science and horticultural interest.
Visit Sculpture and Nature at the Woodmere Art Museum for a clickable map and to learn more. When visiting the museum, use the camera feature on your smartphone to scan QR codes and follow the trail.
Fall BioBlitz 2020
September 25 – 28
Come to Awbury to be part of the Philadelphia Fall BioBlitz, September 25th through September 28th!
Join this communal citizen-science effort to record as many of the Arboretum’s (and/or Philadelphia’s) species as we can! Connect to the environment while generating useful data for science and conservation.
FREE and no registration is required. More info HERE
Field Studies at Awbury Arboretum
Weekday mornings, 10:00am – 11:30pm, Preschool – Middle school
Field Studies at Awbury Arboretum provide hands-on education programs that can be tailored to meet your curriculum or specific age- and ability-related needs.
Two options are available: Environmental education programs at Awbury Arboretum’s main campus, or Farm Programs at Awbury Arboretum’s Agricultural Village. Picnic facilities available for brown bag lunch. More info HERE
Reopening September 17th!
Covid-19 Hours
Thursdays and Saturdays 1:00 – 4:00 PM
Starting on September 17, Stenton’s grounds will be open to the public during the hours listed above. Come walk through the meadow or spend some time in the garden. No picnicking allowed.
Museum tours will be offered by appointment only. Please call 215-329-7312 or email to schedule a tour. Tours will be limited to single-family groups of 5 or less. Visit Stenton for more information.
October 9 – October 25!
During a special multi-night exhibition from October 9-25, the Conservancy will be sharing historical images and films. These images will be projected through storefront windows along Germantown Avenue in Chestnut Hill, while neighboring historic buildings will be illuminated with colored lights.
Make sure to RSVP to our Facebook event for sneak peeks and the latest updates on Night of Lights!
Please forward! And don’t forget to tag us on social media, @chconservancy on Facebook and Instagram and using the hashtags #HistoryatHome, #chconservancy, #commonground, #together, #wegotthis
Stay well, and keep in touch.
Sponsors and supporters are community champions and make all of this work possible!
Always feel free to contact us with any questions about the Conservancy, our programs and events, or your membership at
Chestnut Hill Conservancy | 8708 Germantown AvenuePhiladelphia, PA 19118