A newly planted tree on the north lawn of the Henry County Courthouse has special significance.

A newly planted tree on the north lawn of the Henry County Courthouse has special significance.

The tree, a white oak, was planted to mark Illinois’ bicentennial. The state celebrated its 200th anniversary on Dec. 3.

A conversation between Jeff Orton, a Henry County board member and retired Geneseo eighth-grade history teacher, and Tim Wells, the county treasurer sparked the idea for a bicentennial tree.

“We were talking about trees and the idea to mark the bicentennial came up,” said Orton.

Last December, area veterans groups helped raise a special bicentennial flag to fly at the courthouse throughout 2018, but other than that, not much was being done to mark the milestone anniversary.

“In Henry County, we’re all about the future,” said Wells, noting planting a young tree seemed like an appropriate way to mark the anniversary while also looking toward the future.

“One hundred years from now, it would be interesting to see how the tree has grown,” said Orton.

An average white oak grows to 100 feet in height and three feet in diameter. A white oak can live for 350 to 400 years.

According to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, in 1908, Illinois schoolchildren had the opportunity to selected from native oak, maple and elm for the state tree. The students picked the native oak.

However, because there are numerous kinds of native oak in the state, a special vote was taken in 1973 to select the white oak (Latin name, Quercus alba). White oaks can be found in all 102 Illinois counties.

Crews from Steve’s Nursery in Geneseo planted the tree, which is a Quercus alba, at the courthouse.

Elsewhere in the state, white oak trees were planted at a Peoria elementary school and at a park in Macomb to mark the bicentennial, but Henry County officials said they aren’t aware of any other county planting a tree at a courthouse.

“It would have been neat if this was something all of the counties had done,” said Orton.

Henry County’s new white oak is located near the public entrance to the courthouse.