click to enlarge Adopt a tree at Oak Ridge Cemetery
On the tour is the largest native shingle oak in the cemetery, located behind the Temple Garden monument which was installed in 1954, carved in Italy of Roman travertine marble. The city contracted with the Pompeian Garden Furniture Company of New York City for the sculpture.

Trees will soon turn brilliant shades of red, orange and yellow, treating us to the splendor of Mother Nature. Fall is a perfect time to adopt a tree – at Oak Ridge Cemetery. In addition to being the final resting place for some of Springfield's most notable citizens, Oak Ridge Cemetery is a year-round source of beauty, with thousands of trees on the property. The eighth annual tree tour on Oct. 15 is an opportunity to learn more about some of these trees.

For more than 50 years, Guy Sternberg has been researching existing trees as well as planting interesting or unique trees on the grounds. Sternberg is an internationally known oak expert and founder of Starhill Forest Arboretum near Petersburg. More than a hundred significant trees at the cemetery have been documented, which individuals, families, organizations and businesses can adopt. These include the oldest and rarest spontaneous or planted trees, as well as trees Sternberg started from seeds from special international trees. Trees available for adoption must be of ecological, botanical or historical significance, aesthetically pleasing and compatible with protecting burials.

The Adopt-A-Tree program promotes greater interest and understanding of trees and the natural environment of the cemetery and helps preserve that environment for the future. The cost to adopt a tree is $75. Funds are used to document, interpret and preserve trees in Oak Ridge Cemetery and for expenses associated with the annual tree tours conducted by volunteers. 

The trees are identified with permanent markers that provide the tree's name, ID number and a QR code linking to extensive information about the specimen. The annual tree tour features some of these notable trees, which include oaks, maples, sycamores, locusts, Osage orange, pine, beech, tulip tree, cottonwood, birch, walnut and more. Research is ongoing. More trees will be added in the future.

The website includes the names of those who adopted the tree and names to whom the tree is dedicated. Certificates are also provided. For more information about the tree inventory, trees available for adoption, an application form and the tree tours, go to

Oak Ridge Tree Tour, 1-4 p.m. Oct. 15

This year's tour is in the Temple Garden area, just north of the War Memorials. Enter off J. David Jones Parkway. The tour starts at the big tree just past the War Memorials on the north side of the drive.

The Temple Garden area was part of a 1940s expansion of the cemetery, and the city planted 500 trees in the new development. A columned temple sculpture was installed in 1954.

The tour will feature 28 trees. Some existed before the cemetery was founded, some were planted more than 50 years ago and other unique trees were planted after 1994. Forty volunteers will guide visitors and interpret the trees.

Included on the tour is the largest native shingle oak (Quercus imbricaria) in the cemetery, located behind the temple sculpture. Also on the tour is one of the two last known seedlings grown from the Wye Oak in Maryland, the largest white oak ever found on Earth and one of the first five trees included in the National Champion Tree Program when it was founded in 1945. Both the shingle oak and Wye oak, and many more, should have seeds available during the tour for visitors to take home and grow.

There is no rain date; dress for the weather. For more information, go to:

About The Author

Karen Ackerman Witter

Karen Ackerman Witter started freelance writing after a 35-year career in state government holding various senior leadership positions. Prior to retiring she was associate director of the Illinois State Museum for 14 years. She is the past president of the Kidzeum Board of Directors and is an active volunteer...

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