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Above: “The white oak—Quercus alba,” in L. H. Bailey, ed., Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture (1914), vol. IV, fig. 2560, and here. Below: “Variable foliage of the Oak—Pin Oak type,” in L. H. Bailey, ed., Cyclopedia of American Horticulture (1901), vol. N-Q, fig. 1505, and here.

“Strength, solidity, durability are symbolized in the Oak. The tree is connected with the traditions of the race, and it is associated with literature. It is a tree of strong individuality, with bold, free growth and massive framework. Its longevity appeals to every person, even though he has no feeling for trees. It connects the present with the past. It spans the centuries.” –LHBGC, p. 81

Bailey was a great lover of trees, writing in The Holy Earth that “[i]f it were possible for every person to own a tree and to care for it, the good results would be beyond estimation” (36) and that “I think that one never really likes a tree until he is impelled to embrace it with his arms and to run his fingers through the grooves of its bark” (99). The appreciation for oak trees that Bailey expresses in the block quotation above, from his entry on the plant in Cyclopedia of American Horticulture (1901), recalls an earlier reflection on the oak tree that he made on his 1886 trip through the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota. He was reflecting on the unfortunate situation that some scientists feel torn between the artistic appreciation of life and the scientific appreciation of life. The oak gave a sort of “expression” to Bailey’s feelings on the matter:

“Thus may science prohibit imagination by confining mental vision. All meaning in nature, beyond the naked fact, is unknown or unheeded. This is wrong. There is no conflict between science and poetry. The conflict lies between the scientist and the poet. Few scientists see great expression in nature. Expression is the utterance of some thought, feeling, the representation of an idea. It is the soul of nature and of poetry alike. Here is a giant oak, gnarled, leaning from a cliff. Its cell structure is the same as that of other oaks. Its expression is individual,—strength, age, defiance.

“The scientist should at times escape his study. He should see nature externally. He of all others should see beauty. He should know the choicest scenery, the handsomest, most fragrant flowers. He should be capable of ecstasy, enthusiasm.” -L. H. Bailey, in Onamanni, unpublished MS, in the Liberty Hyde Bailey Papers, 21-2-3342. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.

“Typical Oaks,” in L. H. Bailey, ed., Cyclopedia of American Horticulture (1901), vol. N-Q, pl. XXI, and here.

See Bailey’s horticultural entries on oaks in:

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