Seeking the Quercus Boyntonii

At the beginning of my search for endangered trees, I encountered Murphy Westwood of the Morton Arboretum, who was incredibly patient and helpful when I started my journey. She directed me to the IUCN Redlist, a list of the U.S.’s most endangered trees. One of these was the Quercus Boyntonii, or Boynton Sand Post Oak. It was first identified in Texas, but was displaced by pasture lands and pine tree plantations. Researching online, I encountered an informative article. Matt Lobdell, the curator at the Orange Beach, Alabama, Morton Arboretum, was involved in specimen collecting, and directed me to my first sighting.

In a stroke of serendipity, two of the remaining known stands of Quercus Boyntonii were located fifteen minutes away from my husband’s childhood home in rural Alabama. So, on a visit to his parents, we visited the first stand of trees.

The stand is small, located in a peaceful area designated “Forever Wild,” meaning that it was protected. This was a relief, and gave me great hope for conservation efforts. The space was full of rocky outcrops covered in lichen, with moss growing in a small pool of water, the Boyntonii interspersed with pines. The damp grey atmosphere wasn’t conducive to stellar photos, but on our way back to the Atlanta airport we were greeted with sparkling blue skies and clear morning light.

The second location on Chandler Mountain had a larger tree population, but luckily the Boyntonii’s distinctive leaves made them easy to spot. At the moment, there are only 50-200 known mature individuals of Quercus Boyntonii left in the world.

Photo by Carin Wagner

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