David Zuckerman and the Centennial Tree in 2003, just after transplanting.
by John A. Wott, Director Emeritus
On Thursday, October 29, 2015, the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington will honor Daniel J. Evans, on his 90th birthday, for his public leadership, scholarship, and service. What an opportune time to mention the Daniel J. Evans Centennial Tree at the Washington Park Arboretum…a coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) which he planted in the south Pinetum as part of the Washington State Arbor Day program. This tree has grown from a propagule (cutting) from the original tree named in 1989 during the State Centennial. That tree was located at 201 Union Avenue SE, Olympia, WA, centered on a small knoll on property originally owned by Russell O’Brien, an Irish immigrant, and occupied by three generations of family thereafter. The site is now called Centennial Park. The tree was about 50 feet from the foundation of the old house that originally occupied the site, near a newer smaller home. (At this date, I have not been able to determine if the tree is still there, although I personally have visited it several times over the last 33 years.)
In 1998, the parent tree was at least 100 years old, 148 feet tall, and 67.2 inches in girth. Ken Russell, Forest Pathologist, cored the tree and determined its age and wrote a description (1988) which is attached to our accession record. Other specific information can be found in the Washington State Historical Society records. It is unknown how the tree arrived in Olympia and why it was planted on the O’Brien property.
Original certificate for the tree.
In 1995, as Arboretum Director, I received an inquiry from Shelley Farber, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, asking if we would be interested in a propagule, since the DNR had several rooted trees which they wished to establish throughout the State of Washington. The official certificate is signed by Shelley on February 27, 1995 at 3:20 p.m.
The Arbor Day planting of the tree took place in a very heavy rain storm on the Washington State Arbor Day, April 12. 1995. (The Washington State Arbor Day is a different day than the National Arbor Day). The ceremony was attended by Dean David Thorud, UW College of Forestry, Clement Hamilton, Director of the Center for Urban Horticulture, dignitaries from DNR, area high school students, and arboretum staff, myself included. The arboretum staff (Christina Pfeiffer and David Zuckerman) had prepared a great planting site, with the tree (Accession #245-95) patiently waiting in its plastic pot. After appropriate speeches, and with great gusto, the young tree was passed to David for planting preparation. He lifted and tugged on the pot only to discover that it was totally pot bound, necessitating slicing off the pot. Of course the roots were found to be one solid round core. We all stood patiently for several minutes in the rain while David struggled to cut and loosen the roots, wanting to make sure the tree would survive. It has! Finally, Governor Evans was able to plant the tree and we all quickly retreated for drier locations, leaving the staff to finish the planting job.
Governor Evans at the Arbor Day tree planting, April 12, 1995.
The Daniel J. Evans Centennial Tree being transplanted, 2003.
The tree flourished well, but on September 23, 2003, it was moved a few feet north, thus giving it more space. Todd Holm, from Olympic Tree Farm, was the tree spade contractor. The tree has continued to flourish. In 2003, it was measured by Randall Hitchin at 30 feet tall, with a 6 inch dbh. Today, it is 70 feett tall with 20 inch dbh.
I often see Governor Evans enjoying a milkshake at one of his favorite haunts, Burgermaster. Occasionally we chat about his tree, and he tells me that he regularly visits it with his family, including his grandchildren. This in indeed a superb tribute to a great man with a great tree which will remain a legacy for at least another 100 years, a milestone he himself is within 10 years of achieving.