Lincoln Park Zoo Celebrates Arbor Day, Welcomes Community to Say Goodbye to Historic Bur Oak Tree

Lincoln Park Zoo Celebrates Arbor Day, Welcomes Community to Say Goodbye to Historic Bur Oak Tree

300-year-old bur oak tree to be removed May 1

Update from April 26, 2023

Chicago area residents with fond memories of Lincoln Park Zoo’s historic bur oak, which has reached its natural end of life, are invited to pay homage to the tree that has provided the city shade and refuge for centuries as part of the zoo’s Arbor Day activities lineup.

On Friday, April 28, Lincoln Park Zoo is celebrating Arbor Day with free activities, including inviting guests to visit the tree and bid it farewell before its impending removal.

“At the center of our zoo is the nearly 300-year-old bur oak tree, standing 70 feet high for its last weekend at Lincoln Park Zoo,” said Director of Horticulture Katrina Quint. “The bur oak tree has been a direct representation of the zoo’s dedication to protecting the natural environment and tree canopy.”

Guests will be able to write thank-you notes to the tree, see archival photos of the tree, play leaf identification and tree-ring counting games or participate in other activities, including a tour of the zoo’s accredited arboretum. The arboretum tour will be led by the zoo’s horticulture experts at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. All tours are free, but space is limited and pre-registration is required.

The removal of the bur oak tree, announced last fall, will be completed on Monday, May 1, by the zoo’s certified arborists and Bartlett Tree Experts. Lincoln Park Zoo and various partners have plans to sustain the long-living bur oak’s legacy in other ways.

The tree will live on in partnership with The Morton Arboretum, where 36 of its scions were grafted onto rootstock for propagation, preserving its genetics. Slices of the felled tree will also be provided to the Illinois State Archaeological Survey to support dendrological and climate studies in Cook County with the Cook County Forest Preserve.

“We are devastated to see a piece of Chicago history leave the zoo, but we are determined to extend its legacy throughout the community and zoo in other ways with meaningful partnerships,” said Lincoln Park Zoo Vice President of Animal Care and Horticulture Maureen Leahy.

The level of degradation within the tree’s trunk will determine its ability to live on in other ways, but the zoo is hoping to dry, mill, and preserve slices of the tree for memorials, educational tools and nature play spaces at the zoo. The zoo is also in conversations with local woodworkers and artisans who, pending the condition of the wood, plan to create other products and artwork from the tree remnants.



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

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

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