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The heritage bur oak at 124 Cowley Avenue

Updated: Apr 19, 2020

Diameter at breast height: 107 cm

Estimated age of tree: 180 years

In 1957, when Kay and Steve Kot bought the property where they have lived for 60 years, two impressive bur oaks graced the front yard.

Back then, the trunks of these twin bur oaks might have been one-third as wide as the remaining oak is today. That would put them at about 60 cm in diameter at breast height.

The Kot house dates from 1904, and was originally a cabin. It has a cockeyed orientation to Cowley Ave., which didn’t exist when the cottage was built. Because the two oaks were naturally growing on the land, the builders oriented the cottage to fit beside and between them. That’s why the house is not parallel to the street.

About 15 years after the Kots moved in, a windstorm blew down one of the bur oaks. The tree that remains is still producing acorns—a sure sign of its vitality. In fact, here in Ontario at the northern edge of the species range, bur oaks can live for 300 years. This means that the giant tree in the Kot family’s front yard is barely half way through its lifetime.

The acorns from this majestic oak have special value in our community.

Children with “Anna” and the mother tree.

When Erin Topping of Pontiac Avenue wanted to plant a tree in her family’s front yard, she opted to involve her pre-school children so they could nurture the tree and grow up with it. She knew that bur oak saplings were available, so she asked for one.

In September 2015, on the day of the planting, she and the children visited the Kot’s front yard, to pay homage to their tree’s mother.

Heritage tree experts visit Kot’s front yard June 2012.

The Kots welcomed this tribute to their tree, just as they had welcomed a delegation of heritage tree experts to their property in June 2012. (The group was part of a conference examining ways to define and protect heritage trees in the Ottawa region.)

A few weeks after her children planted the sapling, Erin wrote an email to say:

We’ve named our little tree “Anna” and this afternoon the kids wanted to go say Hi to Anna’s mom again. Thanks for your help.

People and trees—they are a winning combination when they support each other!

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