Today Naperville is an accredited “Tree City USA.”
Before all the roads, subdivision and businesses, Naperville was a farming community, filled with rich woodlands.
In celebration of Arbor Day, NCTV17 takes a look at the history of the oldest tree in Dupage County. Located at the cross section of Hobson Road and Greene Road, the oak has captured the attention of many for the past 200 years.
“It is a Bur Oak Tree that has survived for many, many decades and has always captured the imagination of the people as the town grew around it,” said Mary Lou Wehrli. “And every year everyone would keep an eye on it and see how its health is doing as traffic encroached.”
Herb Nadelhoffer and Wehrli, were part of the group of Naperville residents who would watch over the “Hobson Oak.” The couple wanted the tree’s legacy to live on. About eight years ago they gathered acorns from it. The next spring they decorated their front yard with four bur oak trees.
“It’s kind of a connection to the land. The families used to have when it was a farming family. But now it’s special to us because of the memories we have. The connection to the land and nature,” said Wehrli.
There used to be a sign hanging on the tree’s trunk that read “Whoever lays a hand on this tree to harm it shall meet his maker with sin on his soul.” Over the years, the tree has remained unharmed, but now experts say the famous oak is dying. Thanks to Herb and Mary Lou, parts of it will still live on.
A tree can outlive several generations of families. The Hobson Oak has become a landmark and a place for memories, but the importance of trees reaches beyond just history.
Donna Biernadski, Vice President of Marketing at Morton Arboretum, weighed in on ways trees matter most. “It’s important to have trees not just in your yard but in our community in general. They reduce greenhouse gases, they provide shade so they are energy cooling, and they literally give us the air we breathe. Emotionally and spiritually they are just beautiful.”
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