This Old Tree

This Old Tree

Old trees are awe inspiring links to the past that fire our historical imagination. Ever wonder what their stories are? Seasoned arborist and amateur historian Doug Still interviews local experts, historians, and regular folks to celebrate the myths and uncover the real tales. If you're a tree lover, join in to look "beyond the plaque" at heritage trees and the human stories behind them. Biweekly.


March 13, 2023 59 min

Sherwood Forest in the County of Nottinghamshire lays claim to a world famous tree, The Major Oak. It may well have harbored Robin Hood and his merry men, or perhaps people like them. Admirers from all over the world visit the beloved English oak, drawn by the legend.  

Two guests from the Sherwood Forest National Nature Reserve help describe why the tree is so special. One is Paul Cook, the Warden tasked with maintaining the woodla...

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There's a huge, spreading, 350 yr old plus white oak in McMinnville, Tennessee with a legend. It was known to the early pioneers, and it's now a state landmark tree. Listen to its story told by Warren County Historian Jimmy Haley, and former state urban forester Tom Simpson. Come along and discover the Birthing Tree through the eyes of a real pioneer family.

Jimmy Haley
Warren County, TN

Tom Simpson
former East T...

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Gilgamesh, the Sumerian king of Uruk, threatens to cut down the sacred Cedar Forest and claim its wood for his people. First, he must kill the terrifying guardian of the forest, Humbaba. Can he do it? What will the gods think, and what will it mean for humanity? The story's message is central to John Perlin's republished book, A Forest Journey: The Role of Trees in the Fate of Civilization. Forests, and the wood they provid...

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January 30, 2023 59 min

King James II of England threatened to revoke the precious Charter of Connecticut in 1687, and sent one of his men to retrieve it. That meant an end to the colony's limited democracy and independence.  But before it was exchanged during a key meeting, a hero slipped out of the room with it under his arm and hid it within the cavity of an old oak tree. That tree - the Charter Oak - is now a state icon. Get the full story here!


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January 13, 2023 45 min

Picture yourself in Harlem in New York City, and it’s the 1920’s. There’s a cultural awakening going on - there’s jazz and dance, theater and literature, big celebrities and lots of new talent looking for a break. And of course - because this is a show about trees - there's a tree that becomes a symbol of the Harlem Renaissance. It’s the Tree of Hope, and it was a good luck charm to black performers looking to make the big time...

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December 8, 2022 31 min

This a special episode of This Old Tree, the show that features heritage trees and the human stories behind them. This time, listeners tell their own tree stories! From Vermont to California to Hawaii, listen to what people have to say about the trees that inspire them. 

Tom Morra
Arborist and Owner, TF Morra Tree Care

Katie Breukers
Arborist and Host of Tangled Trees podcast
Student at University of New Brunswick

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Luna is a 200 ft tall redwood tree that towers on a ridge deep within a privately owned forest in northern California. You may remember Julia Butterfly Hill's remarkable 2-year "tree sit" in the 1990's that helped save the tree and shed light on the indiscriminate clearcutting of redwood forests. But after an agreement was reached to save the redwood and the national news media left, another crisis arose that threat...

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A big, old, thorny honeylocust tree on the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago has a place within the history of modernist architecture and landscape design. How so? Professor and landscape architect Ron Henderson talks about the tree's relationship to Mies van der Rohe and his colleague Alfred Caldwell, and how the honeylocust became the feathery urban forest powerhouse it is today. 

Ron Henderson

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October 27, 2022 55 min

The Survivor Tree is a well known tree planted at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City that was rescued from the rubble at the World Trade Center site after the terrorist attacks. It has become a stirring symbol of resilience and survival visited by millions of people.

But few people remember there were six other trees rescued from the site and transplanted in early October of 2001. Host Doug Still was part of the City Park...

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Concord, Massachusetts, 1856. Four men cut down a huge, seemingly healthy American elm tree using block and tackle, and ropes drawn by a horse. The graceful tree towered above a house whose owners heard creaking during a storm - they felt unsafe and had it removed. The event would have been long forgotten, except one of America’s greatest writers and earliest environmentalists also lived in Concord - Henry David Thoreau. 

Supremely ...

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October 1, 2022 46 min

Why did Thomas Edison plant a banyan tree sapling at his winter residence in 1926? You guessed it, there was an experiment involved. Native to India, it is now a massive, beloved tree at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, Florida. While this isn’t an “escape from the lab” story, it is sort of a “took over the lab” story! Debbie Hughes, the Horticultural Director, explains what happened. Also, we dig into the mythol...

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September 15, 2022 41 min

The Betsey Williams Sycamore is the most famous tree in Rhode Island. Its huge girth and spreading branches have been photographed, climbed on, and loved by generations of visitors to historic Roger Williams Park in Providence. But its history touches on the legacy of Roger Williams, Rhode Island’s founder; introduces overlooked characters, some noble and some "shady," including a forgotten tree; and features a Williams fam...

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September 6, 2022 1 min

Join host Doug Still - each show features heritage trees and the human stories behind them. 

Old trees are awe inspiring links to the past that fire our historical imagination. Each week, he’ll interview experts, historians, and regular folks to celebrate the myths and uncover the real tales. There’s also a segment called “Tree Story Shorts,” where listeners get a chance to submit and chat about the most meaningful tree in their liv...

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