There are an estimated 3.5 billion trees in the city. Okay, that’s my estimate. It may be off a little.
Some of those trees have a claim to fame. The Anne Frank Memorial includes a chestnut grown from the seed of a tree she often talked about in her famous diary. One passage reads, "The two of us looked out at the blue sky, the bare chestnut tree glistening with dew, the seagulls and other birds glinting with silver as they swooped through the air, and we were so moved and entranced that we couldn't speak." Only 11 saplings came to the US from the original tree.
Over on the Basque Block, the Cyrus Jacobs-Uberuaga Boarding House has a large tree out front that came from the Gernika'ko Arbola or Tree of Gernika. The original tree was a gathering place for Basques since Spanish King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella stood beneath it and swore an oath to protect the Basques. William Wordsworth memorialized the tree in a sonnet called The Oak of Gernika.
The original oak in the Basque Country has been replanted several times from saved acorns. The resilience of the Tree of Gernika is legendary. In 1937 the city of Gernika was carpet-bombed by Spanish fascist dictator Francisco Franco. About 1,000 citizens were killed and the town was all but leveled. The Tree of Gernika remained intact. The incident was later depicted in Pablo Picasso’s painting, Guernica.
The Boise Gernika tree was planted in 1988 and is today robust with a healthy crop
of acorns each year.
Sadly, trees planted on the capitol grounds by Presidents Benjamin Harrison, Theodore Roosevelt, and William Howard Taft had to be cut down when the underground wings were added to the building (dedicated in 2010). Then Representative Max Black, who is a wood carver, salvaged wood from the trees so that local artists could work with it. Several examples of their art can be seen in the capitol’s statuary hall.
Another tree that once graced the capitol grounds was one grown from a seedling that went to the moon with the Apollo 11 astronauts. It came down during the statehouse expansion, too. Take heart, there is another moon tree in Boise. It came from a seed that went to the moon aboard Apollo 14, and it now grows on the grounds of Lowell Scott Elementary. It was planted in 1977.
One of the most beloved trees in Boise is the giant sequoia that stood for many years on St. Lukes property on Jefferson St. It was planted in 1912 by Dr. Fred Pittenger as a seedling sent to Boise by John Muir. The 98-foot-tall tree sported Christmas lights for many years. In the mid-80s arborists discovered that the lights had killed the top of the tree. They did some surgery, redirecting a healthy branch to serve as a new top. That’s what gives it the odd shape, almost as if a small tree is growing out of a large one (photo).
In preparation for new construction at St. Lukes, the massive tree was moved across the street in 2017. The move was carefully done, and the tree seems to be doing well. It could be a fixture in the city for a couple thousand years.