Updates - March 5, 2021:

Ongoing discussions: Over the past six-to-10 months, the university arborist and Division of Campus Planning, Infrastructure, and Facilities continue to meet with stakeholders connected to the Merry Oak to develop a path forward. These stakeholders include the College of Natural Resources and Environment; the Office of the Vice President for Strategic Affairs and Vice Provost for Inclusion and Diversity; Kerri Moseley-Hobbs, whose enslaved ancestors, the Fractions, lived on Smithfield Plantation; Smithfield Plantation Executive Director Ryan Spencer; and more.

Age of the tree: The university arborist continues to collaborate with partners from the College of Natural Resources and Environment to determine the tree’s age. The tree is estimated to have sprouted around 1740.

Current site maintenance: Mulch is currently being spread at the site to support maintenance activities.

Site memorialization and commemoration: Stakeholders continue to meet regularly to discuss how best to memorialize and commemorate the tree and the history at the site.

Updates related to the maintenance of the Merry Oak and any potential memorialization and commemoration activities will be shared as they are available via VT News.

Original story:

The Merry Oak, located on the grounds of Smithfield Plantation, was claimed by a storm early on Tuesday, May 19.

The tree, a white oak, is known to be approximately 350-450 years old and held significant historical importance to the enslaved people at Smithfield Plantation nearly 250 years ago, as well as their descendants.

Virginia Tech is deeply engaged in the stewardship of historical trees on the Blacksburg campus. Led by the university arborist, long-term efforts were underway to preserve the site where the Merry Oak is located and to celebrate the tree, which had suffered substantial structural problems due to old age.

All avenues will be explored around the potential reseeding of the Merry Oak and to utilize its wood for memorial and academic activities.

Click here to learn more about tree stewardship at Virginia Tech, including the Campus Tree Inventory and Interactive Map, university arborist, and more.

For more information on Smithfield Plantation, click here.

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