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Randolph Township Landmarks Committee Hopes to Propagate Randolph’s Liberty Tree

Randolph Landmarks Committee

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 • 2:35pm

RANDOLPH,NJ- Randolph is proud of its 26 designated historic landmarks, including a white oak tree that is located behind the bank near the southeast corner of Quaker Church Road and Center Grove Road. The huge oak has been dated to have been growing since around 1720 at the location that used to be known as Dell’s Corner, making the tree almost 300 years old.  It is the last tree in town that was left after the Revolutionary War. 

During the war, forges in Randolph were continuously stoked with the trees that grew in the area.  The forges were used to melt down the iron that was mined from our lands and made into cannon balls, rifles, and other items needed for the war effort.

Last year, Landmarks Committee member Carla Bortnick (who herself lives in another of the designated landmarks in town) contacted Dr. Tom Ombrello, a professor at Union County College who specializes in propagating old trees.  Dr. Ombrello kindly offered to try to grow a new tree from the acorns that came from Randolph’s Liberty Tree.  He told the committee that the most effective method of propagation would be to gather acorns from the original tree. The tree has not produced a great deal of acorns in the past 8 or 9 years, but after a wind storm in the fall of 2013, committee member Meg Sullivan was able to gather about a dozen acorns from under the Liberty Tree.

Bortnick dropped the precious acorns off to Dr. Ombrello, who tested them while she waited. Fortunately, it was determined that one of the acorns was viable for growing.  Recently, Dr. Ombrello notified Botnick that the viable acorn has germinated.  The acorn was  placed in a cooler to simulate a winter environment. It will remain there for a few months, and then be brought into a greenhouse.

Since the white oak is one of the slowest growing species of trees, the most the seedling can grow is a few inches each year.  Thus, Dr. Ombrello recommends that the Liberty Tree seedling be given a protected environment for at least a few years before it is placed outdoors.

It has long been a task of the Landmarks Committee to care for the Liberty Tree, including its root fertilization.  The tree has been slowly dying, and it was necessary to remove some of its heavy dead branches a couple of years ago.  

The committee members are hopeful that the seedling will thrive so that it can be planted and become a living legacy for future generations of Randolph residents.  The original Randolph Liberty Tree will live on through its offspring.

For a complete list of Randolph's historical landmarks, please visit : Randolph Landmarks

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