Kansas City, Missouri’s Legacy Tree Program

Quercus alba × muehlenbergii in Mt. Washington Cemetery

Late September in Missouri is typically the start of acorn season, the most important time of the year for a quercophile. My good friend, Alan Branhagen, Director of Horticulture for Powell Gardens, south of Kansas City, had sent me pictures of a few cool oaks he had recently found. I invited myself up for a day trip to tag along with Alan and his lead propagator Jesse Stauffer-Baum. The Champion Trees of Greater Kansas City program was started in 1955 by local tree enthusiast Stanley McLane. Powell Gardens is in charge of the Legacy Tree Program, which is the program that propagates the champions (native and ornamental), and other historical trees from the area. Alan mentioned that he needed to visit a few of these trees and I was more than happy to tag along. In the mid 1960’s Kendall Laughlin, author of Q. ×discreta (1961), made a detailed inventory of Swope Park, Kansas City’s largest park, and found a number of hybrid oaks, state champion trees, and even a couple of national champions for the time. Fifty years later, many of these trees have been forgotten or removed, and Alan is on a quest to find as many of these trees as possible. We were able to find one of the old hybrid trees on this trip. Laughlin called it Q. ×stelloides (Q. stellata × prinoides), but Alan and I concurred it was most likely Q. stellata × muehlenbergii. At the time many considered chinkapin oak to be synonymous with dwarf chinkapin oak so maybe that was Laughlin’s thought. A grafted tree found at the Linda Hall Library arboretum labeled Q. ×stelloides, is likely a graft from this original tree. 

New champion Shumard oak Quercus stellata × muehlenbergii foliage

We measured the tree, picked up acorns and went to the next tree. We measured new champions of the greater Kansas City area of Q. shumardiiQ. coccinea as well as a very nice Q. alba × muehlenbergii that Alan found this past spring. The last trip of the day took us to a conservation area in Blue Springs, Mo. Burr Oak Woods conservation area (I know “bur” is spelled wrong) holds a few Q. prinoides and I was hoping to find acorns. No luck on acorns, but we did measure a large specimen that I will be nominating for state champion status. A great way to spend a late September day. 

Quercus prinoides in Burr Oak Woods Ulmus parvifolia with unique waterfall effect
Quercus prinoides foliage