Bloom Where You Are Planted

Our monthly Bloom Where You Are Planted articles offer expert inspiration and guidance seasonally about trees, plants, animals, bugs, the city’s water quality, stormwater management, and the green space that sustains the Wissahickon watershed.
Canopy of the Morris Arboretum specimen in the morning light.Canopy of the Morris Arboretum specimen in the morning light—photo by Paul W. Meyer.

June Tree of the Month: Bur Oak

by Paul W. Meyer, Conservancy Board Member and
Retired Executive Director of Morris Arboretum’s F. Otto Haas

Bur oak is a tall, long-lived tree, reaching up to 90 feet and, with age, it could become even broader than its height. 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 and a handsome landscape specimen.

Detail of leaves and acorn of the bur oak.

Detail of leaves and acorn of the bur oak—photo by Paul W. Meyer.

Until recently, 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 (pictured below). The fact that it withstood the disturbance caused by this commercial construction for over 40 years says much about the tenacity of this species. This iconic Chestnut Hill specimen is a fine example of the typical form of this oak species.

Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa)

Recent bur oak photo at the Top of the Hill.

Recent bur oak photo circa 2020 at the Top of the Hill—photo by Paul W. Meyer.


Photo showing the Top of the Hill Bur Oak circa 1977, before the demolition of the Suburban Restaurant.

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 also tolerates 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 it has yet to be widely planted here in Philadelphia. 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.

Chestnut Hill specimen in winter. Note the coarse spreading branches.

Chestnut Hill specimen in winter. Note the coarse spreading branches—photo
by Paul W. Meyer.

Illustration by Pierre Joseph Redoute from The North American Sylva by F. Andrew Michaux published in Philadelphia in 1817.

Illustration by Pierre Joseph
Redoute from The North American Sylva by F. Andrew Michaux. Published in Philadelphia in 1817.

Snow covered bur oak growing near Gates Hall at the Morris Arboretum.

Snow-covered bur oak growing near Gates Hall at the Morris Arboretum—photo by Paul W. Meyer.

A Grove of Bur oaks was recently planted in Pastorius Park. Bur oak is a
particularly good choice 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, Tennes e, today. Therefore, populations of bur oak from the southwest part of its natural distribution range are likely tolerant of more extreme heat and periodic droughts that will likely become more common in the future.

With luck, the Chestnut Hill Conservancy will be commemorating the 100th
anniversary of the planting of these trees in 2123!

June 19-25 was Pollinator Week 

Many types of plants, including fruit and vegetable crops, depend on insects for pollination. Planting native plants is one way to encourage pollinators. Native plants are better prepared for local environmental conditions. They require less water than non-natives, support pollinators, and don’t depend on fertilizer to succeed.


By using native plant species, you can help to maintain the native biodiversity of Pennsylvania. Follow below for a few tips on how you can provide pollinator habitat.

          • Plant a diverse mix of native plants for habitat and stormwater management.
          • Avoid using pesticides and modern cultivars, especially the “double-blooms.”
          • Capture stormwater by creating rain-depression pollinator gardens.
          • Remove non-native invasive species over time.
          • Click here for a native plant guide in the Philadelphia region.

DEP Declares Statewide Drought

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recommends voluntary water conservation after declaring a statewide drought last week.

“Although this week has brought some welcome rain to much of the state, it’s not enough to make up for the lack of rainfall this spring, following a winter that brought little snowfall in many areas,” said DEP Acting Secretary Rich Negrin. “As a result, we’re seeing lowered stream flows, dropping groundwater levels, and persistent precipitation deficits. Water conservation, always a good practice, is especially helpful now as it’ll lessen potential future impacts on water supplies if rainfall continues to be scant this summer.”

Philadelphia residents should cut
their water usage by 3-6 gallons daily until the newly-declared drought watch is lifted, Pennsylvania officials say. The same recommendations apply to people in Bucks, Delaware, and Montgomery counties.

Drought conditions in Pennsylvania are expected to last several months.

For drought updates and water conservation tips, visit dep.pa.gov/dought.


Conservancy Honors Conservationist

P1680462.JPGThe Chestnut Hill Conservancy planted a new grove of Bur Oaks in Pastorius Park to honor Robert (Rob) Fleming, landscape architect, educator, and sustainability advocate.

With a history of greening areas of Chestnut Hill, including Germantown Avenue in the 1980s, Rob most recently helped to lead significant tree planting efforts in Pastorius Park. Rob and Paul W. Meyer helped to guide Friends of Pastorius Park as they took many initiatives to rejuvenate the park true to Frederick Peck’s original design.

The Conservancy honored Rob’s excellent stewardship by planting a small grove of three Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa) trees. The hardiest of oaks and a favorite of Rob’s, this shade tree is singularly magnificent, drought tolerant, helps with air pollution, and has remarkable value for wildlife.

Rain prevented the plaque dedication celebration, initially planned as an outdoors at the grove on June 6, was relocated to the Flemings Chestnut Hill home.

Botanical artist Emilie Lapham created the

Included in attendance was botanical artist Emilie Lapham. Emilie created the “Oak Gardeners,” inspired by Rob Fleming’s volunteer work days at Pastorius Park (pictured above). To read the full article, click here.

Support Our Work 


Please help us reach our goal of 30 new members by becoming a member yourself or gifting a membership by Friday, June 30.

Membership allows the Conservancy to conduct public programs, lead conversations on sustainable development, and will enable us to prepare for the next environmental threat. Members can access our collection, spend time with our knowledgeable Archivists, and receive free or discounted program admissions.


News and Events

Enjoy the recent news and upcoming events through the end of the month.






2023 Bloom Where You Are Planted Presenting Sponsors

Interested in sponsoring the Conservancy in 2023? Learn more about our opportunities by contacting Danielle Saldutti, our Development Manager, to discuss your opportunities.
Sponsorship Opportunities
Email Facebook Instagram Website YouTube