Oak Trees and “Old Ironsides”


In the world of USA legacies, perhaps the USS Constitution anchored in Boston Massachusetts serves as one of the best preserved.  Even this magnificent sea legacy owes it’s existence to a land legacy; sustainable forest management.

Although the USS Constitution is most famous for a battle during the War of 1812, today it is the world’s oldest commissioned naval vessel afloat. The nickname “Old Ironsides” originates because enemy canon balls seemingly bounced off of the sides, which are made of three layers of oak.  Live oak, one of the most dense hardwoods, was sandwiched between two layers of white oak and proved to be an impenetrable shield.  Today on July Fourth we celebrate one of the legacies that laid the foundation for our country’s freedom.

Today, thanks to sustainable forest management practiced since the days of Gifford Pinchot and other early foresters,white oak and live oak remain as furniture , flooring and millwork woods.  The trees provide food and shelter for wildlife, and are an important part of ecosystem management for water quality and carbon sequestration.

Scheduled to be scrapped in the 1830s, a poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes called “Old Ironsides” rallied the community to save the USS Constitution.  It now serves as a museum ship in the Charlestown Naval Yard in Boston, MA.

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