Perfect Shade-tree Reading

Posted: August 19, 1990

The old, majestic trees of Springfield that have survived weather, war and blight have been documented in a book by the Springfield Garden Club.

The Historic Trees of Springfield was published two weeks ago, completing an 18-month project by the Garden Club and the Springfield Historic Society.

More than 200 trees are listed in the 48-page book, with black and white photographs and special notes about the various genuses. A reproduction of an antique map showing the original William Penn land grants in Springfield spans two pages in the book's center, and a walking and driving tour map folds out

from the inside back cover.

"The book is not just a list," said Monica Fulvio, who coordinated the project and took more than 150 photographs of the trees.

Fulvio, in her late 60s, knows most of the names and locations of the trees by heart.

"I drove all over Springfield taking pictures. I came home one day and couldn't imagine why I was so tired. Then I counted that I got in and out of the car 36 times that day," she said.

The project began as a desire to document the township's old trees - "to have something on record," Fulvio said - and grew into the idea for a book. The Springfield Historic Society provided the garden club with 50 historical sites to get the project rolling.

Before long, "people were calling and saying, 'I have this big, old

tree,' " she said. Residents of surrounding communities called, too.

Some of trees featured in the 300-book limited edition are up to 300 years old - perhaps at one time the climbing platforms for colonial-era boys on summer days. Their survival through the centuries is a testament to their hardiness.

Pictured on the cover is the township's oldest known tree - a 300-year-old Norway maple that towers over the grounds of the Springfield Friends Meeting House on Springfield Road. The tree was probably planted by botanist John Bartram, Fulvio said.

"It's one of our prides and joys," she said.

The tree's trunk has a circumference of nearly 18 feet.

The ages of the trees are estimates, Fulvio said. "There's no way you can tell the exact age until it's cut down and you can count the rings."

Listed under the heading of "unusual trees" is a cottonwood in Williams Park on Powell Road. Native to the Midwest, the cottonwood is so named for the fluffy, white filaments that sprout from its branches and settle on the ground. The Williams Park tree is 100 feet tall and 15.4 feet in circumference. It stands by a small stream.

"It always grows by water," Fulvio said of the cottonwood.

The lore of the cottonwood tree is recounted in one of the many passages in the book that blend science and history. Once known as the necklace poplar, the cottonwood served as an early form of meteorology for farm women who predicted rain according to the position of the tree's triangular leaves. When the white underside of the leaves was turned up - or the tree was "showing her petticoat" - a storm was foreseen.

Some of the other remarkable trees in the book include a white oak, 18 feet in circumference and 200 to 300 years old, on Beatty Road; a double-trunk sycamore, 17.6 feet in circumference, on Leamy Avenue, and various dawn redwoods, native to northern China, found in a few locations in the township.

Known as the granddaddy of the giant redwood found on the West Coast, the

dawn redwood has existed for 100 million years, the book says. A 50-foot-tall

dawn redwood, planted in 1965, can be found on Scenic Road.

More than 100 orders for The Historic Trees of Springfield, which costs $9, have been filled, Fulvio said.

Copies of the book will be donated to the Springfield Public Library and to public schools in the township.

Several of the trees listed in the book will be included in the second printing of the Bicentennial edition of Big Trees of Pennsylvania, Fulvio said.

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