Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo Celebrates Centuries-Old Oak Tree

250–300-year-old bur oak tree, predating the City of Chicago, naturally nears end of its life

CHICAGO (November 14, 2022) A bur oak tree, situated in the heart of Lincoln Park Zoo near the white-cheeked gibbon habitat, has naturally neared the end of its life, despite no disease present and years of preventive treatment efforts. The tree, which predates the City of Chicago’s founding in 1837, has been a part of the zoo’s natural landscape since its beginnings. Lincoln Park Zoo plans to carefully remove the tree from the zoo grounds in spring of 2023 and encourages patrons to visit for a final look at this piece of natural history.

“The center of the zoo was built around these historic oak trees and it is bittersweet the nearly 300-year-old tree has come to the natural end of its life,” said Katrina Quint, Lincoln Park Zoo’s director of horticulture. “The zoo is dedicated to protecting Lincoln Park Zoo’s natural environment and tree canopy to ensure all guests have a healthy, vibrant natural landscape to enjoy for generations to come.”

The long-living bur oak has broad-spreading branches and develops thick bark tolerant of once-common prairie fires. Its large acorns have a fringed burry cup, can grow one-and-a-half inches long, and serve as an important food source for several species. The tree’s average height spans 70 feet and houses many insects, birds, and squirrels in its bark, stems, and foliage.

The longevity of this oak tree is emblematic of the breadth and success of Lincoln Park Zoo’s succession planning efforts, spearheaded by Quint. In her role, she succession plans upwards of 100 years in advance to protect the zoo’s natural landscape and ensure the zoo’s tree canopy remains robust and full for centuries, especially considering the worsening effects of climate change. With more than 900 species of plants under the care of Lincoln Park Zoo’s horticulture crew, succession planning is crucial for maintaining the natural landscape of the zoo and the surrounding region.

Guests can visit the oak tree at Lincoln Park Zoo before its careful removal in spring 2023. Lincoln Park Zoo also offers free, guided tours of its diverse plant life and ecosystems to highlight the zoo’s interesting species in bloom and discuss the horticulture program’s past, present, and future.

For more information, visit lpzoo.org.

About Lincoln Park Zoo

Lincoln Park Zoo inspires communities to create environments where wildlife will thrive in our urbanizing world. The zoo is a leader in local and global conservation, animal care and welfare, learning, and science. A historic Chicago landmark founded in 1868, the not-for-profit Lincoln Park Zoo is a privately-managed, member-supported organization and is free and open 365 days a year. Visit us at lpzoo.org.