By Jackie Nelson
A small sapling with extraordinary historical provenance for the Mennonite community will be transplanted from the home of Naomi and Orville Rutschman to the Dyck Arboretum.
John Sharp, a Hesston College professor and avid historian, said the small sapling has deep roots in Ukraine.
“This seedling continues the life of its now-dead parent tree in Chortitza, a village in Chortitza Colony, Ukraine, the home of many Mennonites, most of whom have since migrated to the Western Hemisphere. The grand (very large) Chortitza oak is legendary. It was already grand when Mennonites first arrived from Prussia in 1789. It served as a reference point, a meeting place, and temporary shelter--as it had for Cossacks, the previous inhabitants of the region,” said Sharp.
Sharp said the centuries-old parent tree was a massive oak.
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“Soviet scientists have estimated the oak to be 700 years old. Referencing a Ukraine archive, Helen Rose Pauls, gives the dimensions as 118.8 feet high, 21 feet wide at the base, with a branch span of 142 feet,” he said.
While the tree may be dead, it remains standing. Acorns and saplings gathered from the tree have spread around the world.
“The tree's glory days are over. The lifeless tree is now held in place by props and cables, but still it is a tourist destination. Over the years, tourists--perhaps more properly, pilgrims--have carried acorns and seedlings home. And so, the great oak lives on as do the scattered descendants of those who once called Chortitza home. I have seen seven: in Kitchener, Ontario; Winnipeg, Manitoba; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; Abbotsford, British Columbia; Fresono, California; North Newton, Kansas. Naomi's tree will be number eight, but there are many more,” he said