On my walks through my neighbourhood park, I often pass a tree that has a sign underneath stating that the American Women’s Club of Geneva donated it to the city in 1991 for the 700th anniversary of the Swiss Confederation. The sign further states that it is a pin oak or quercus palustris. Intrigued, I googled quercus palustris and learned that quercus means oak and palustris means “of the swamp”.
Quercus palustris is a medium-sized deciduous oak of the red oak group that typically grows 50-70 feet tall with a broad pyramidal crown. This is a tree of the lowlands that is primarily native to the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic States in the United States. It is naturally a wetland tree and is confined to acidic soils. It has a lifespan of about 120 years.
Why does this tree have so many branches without leaves I wondered? I learned that, as with many other oak species, the pin oak does not shed its dead branches, which can stay on the trees for many years. This would explain it. I also learned that there is something called chlorosis or yellowing of leaves, which is common in alkaline soils and can damage this tree. The leaves of this particular quercus are yellow and to my eye rather sparse. Is it possible that the soil in the park is too alkaline for our pin oak?
I don’t know the answer, but I hope that the young foreigner will thrive and grow to an old age. I take great pleasure every time I pass by it to know that some imaginative women at the American Women’s Club thought of offering a little bit of their homeland to help celebrate the anniversary of their host country.
The quercus palustris can be found in Parc Bertrand in the Champel neighbourhood, near the entrance from the rue de l’Athénée and behind the statue of two children at play called “Les Petites Amies” (little friends).
We are a group of international women living in Geneva, Switzerland. If you would like to join the AIWC, please visit our website at: http://www.aiwcgeneva.org/