Benefactors pay Mizzou Legacy Oaks a visit to check progress

Giant pin oaks on the University of Missouri’s Francis Quadrangle have provided deep shade in warm weather, and in winter they have shared majestic profiles for 60 years. With a life expectancy of 70 to 90 years, and because the installation of an irrigation system and ensuing changes in moisture and minerals levels weakened them, only15 of the original 26 trees remain. Rather than wait until the inevitable becomes reality for the remaining trees, a campus advisory group was convened by Landscape Services and Mizzou Botanic Garden (MUBG) to address the pending issue. Group consensus was to proceed with replacement of the trees using a selection of longer-lived white oak species.

Wyane Caliper

Wayne Lovelace, co-owner of Forrest-Keeling Nursery, uses a caliper to measure the growth of white oaks at MU's South Farm. The nursery donated the trees to MU to eventually replace failing pin oaks now growing on the Francis Quadrangle.

MUBG worked with Wayne Lovelace (BS AG ’58 AF&NR) and Kim Lovelace-Hainsfurther(BS AG ’81 AF&NR) the father-daughter team who owns and operates Forrest-Keeling Nursery (F-KN), to supply replacements genetically adapted to the state’s climate and soils. Missouri natives, carrying over 350 different species, mostly trees. Wayne has semi-retired from his life’s work and Kim, a Mizzou alumna, now serves as company president.

“He’s not slowing down, and we don’t want him to,” Kim said of her father’s role in the business. “I learn something new from him every day.”

Because of the Lovelace’s many ties to MU and their long relationship with the campus, the nursery donated 14 each of five white oak species to MUBG. The Legacy Oaks, as they have been dubbed, were planted at MU’s South Farm in spring 2019 to gain size and to be evaluated for overall health and form before taking their places on the MU quad and elsewhere around campus.

Species in the white oak grouping include: Quercus bicolor, Swamp White oak; Quercus lyrata, Overcup oak; Quercus macrocarpa, Bur oak; Quercus x ‘Jillian Anne Young’; and Quercus x schuetti, Schuette’s oak.

Wayne and Kim Lovelace

Wayne Lovelace and Kim Lovelace-Hainsfurther, are co-owners of Forrest-Keeling Nursery. The pair visited MU this summer to check on the profess of white oak saplings they donated to MU as part of the campus' Legacy Oak project.

In July, Wayne and Kim visited the South Farm to see how the trees were faring.

“We haven’t seen them since they left the nursery,” Wayne said.

Wayne observed that overall, the Legacy Oaks looked fine, having added six-tenths of an inch in trunk diameter. He suggested a bi-annual application of a slow-release fertilizer with micro-nutrients including sulfur, which, he said, would get the trees conditioned for their lives on the quad.

“We recommend one-third trunk and two-thirds top,” Wayne said of overall tree form. “And when they leaf out in the spring, those that show early color will be the ones that show color in the fall.

“Typically, in this area the white oak will live 300 years. And the other good thing about using a bottomland species like this is that they’ve evolved to thrive in a lot of different conditions. They’re a great choice.”

One of the Legacy Oak species, Quercus x ‘Jillian Ann Young’, is named in honor of Kim’s daughter, Jillian, who at age 17 was killed in a car accident seven years ago.

Jillian Lovelace

One of the oak species donated to the MU Legacy Oaks project, Quercus x "Jillian Anne Young', is named after Kim Lovelace-Hainsfurther's daughter Jillian, pictured here, who tragically was killed in an automobile accident.

Kim explained that Jillian and her brother Bo selected a hybrid oak — what they believed to be a cross between a swamp white oak and a bur oak with good form — for a class project and planted near Kim’s house.

“But the leaves looked a little different than we expected and the acorns looked a lot like overcup oak acorns,” Kim said. “We continued to observe it, and because of its different characteristics decided it was a three-way cross. Pollen had apparently blown in from the nearby seed orchard and pollinated the cross.”

“It’s proven to be a beautiful tree,” Wayne said.

“Jillian had a very strong will — sort of like an oak,” said Kim. “Nothing would give me more comfort than to know that in 100 years, students will be sitting under Jillian’s oak.

“I can’t say enough about Pete and his legacy and memorial programs,” she added. The Lovelace family sponsored a Tribute Bench in Jillian’s honor near the Agriculture Building.

The campus advisory group’s plan calls for replacing the oaks on the Quad in 2022, though that date is somewhat fluid.

“I hope I’m around to see the planting,” Wayne said. “I’m sorry to get so old. I’d love to stay with some of these trees for a long time.”