As centennial nears, state honors trees of history

Posted on by az100

115-year-old olive tree is 1st to be dedicated

by Peter Corbett – Apr. 30, 2011 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

Scottsdale founder Winfield Scott died two years before statehood, but an olive tree he planted in 1896 took root as his legacy to 21st-century Arizona.

The 25-foot tree, unremarkable except for its age, was dedicated in a ceremony Thursday as Arizona’s first Centennial Witness Tree, meaning it was already shading dusty Second Street on Statehood Day, Feb. 14, 1912.

More trees around the state that were in place that day will be dedicated in the coming months, all leading up to Arizona’s centennial celebration next year.

Scott’s olive trees were planted in what today is a busy area of downtown Scottsdale.

“They’ve been through thick and thin,” said JoAnn Handley, Scottsdale Historical Museum manager. “They’re very hearty.”

She and others fought to protect Scott’s olive trees in the early 1970s when an Old Town barrio was redeveloped for Civic Center Plaza.

Scott, a hearty Arizona pioneer, planted the tree along with dozens of other olive trees as a windbreak around a neighbor’s 40-acre citrus grove.

A late-1890s drought doomed the citrus grove, but the olive trees survived as a living pale-green fence around the property until progress mowed many of them down along Scottsdale and Osborn roads.

Fast-forward through 115 years and 22 governors, and four of Scott’s olive trees still stand, in the Second Street median in front of the Scottsdale Center for the Arts. Another dozen stand sentry along Drinkwater Boulevard near Scottsdale Stadium.

A bust of Scott, carved 30 years ago from one of the fallen olive trees, is in the nearby Scottsdale Civic Center Library.

Other Centennial Witness Trees around the state will be recognized as part of the state’s centennial celebrations, said Conni Ingallina, Arizona Community Tree Council executive director.

Arizonans can nominate other centennial trees through Nov. 1 by going online to

Others under consideration include:

– A towering Ponderosa pine at the Grand Canyon South Rim entrance.

– A 38-foot saguaro cactus in the Coronado National Forest near San Manuel.

– An American elm that is a clone of the tree that Gen. George Washington was standing under when he took command of the Continental Army in 1775. The elm was planted in 1931 near Old Main on the Northern Arizona University campus in Flagstaff.

– The “jail tree,” a 200-year-old mesquite in Wickenburg that prisoners were chained to before the town had a cellblock for outlaws.

A “hanging tree” near the Vulture Mine, southwest of Wickenburg, will not be considered because it’s on private property, said Louise Wakem, an Arizona Community Tree Council member.

The council is urging Arizonans to plant centennial trees to increase the state’s shade canopy. A sapling might also become a Bicentennial Witness Tree in 2112.

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