SCOOP; Constitution Square tree brochure is popular

Published 2:48 pm Tuesday, December 22, 2020

By Susan Jonas

Garden Club of Danville

Can you tell the difference between a maple tree and an oak? How about a dogwood or a redbud? Help is here.

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Even though most trees have lost their leaves and winter has arrived, a new brochure about the trees of Constitution Square is proving surprisingly popular. 

Thanks to a grant from the Garden Club of Danville, money from the Heart of Danville Main Street Program, and many volunteer hours from both organizations, Danville residents, students, and visitors can use the brochure to identify and learn about the 42 trees growing throughout the historic park at the intersection of Main and Second Streets.

A new free brochure about the trees of Constitution Square Park is available at the park and other locations downtown. Each tree in the park has a numbered tag which is keyed to a map in the brochure, along with descriptions of each species and historical uses of the trees. The brochure was produced by the Garden Club of Danville and the Heart of Danville Main Street Program. Photo by Susan Jonas

This project began in the spring of 2019 when the Advocate-Messenger printed a brief “Looking Back” article stating that the Garden Club of Danville had donated money in 1945 to plant over 100 native tree saplings in what was then a new park. The trees were donated by Robert Shelby Darbishire, a descendant of Kentucky’s first Governor, Isaac Shelby. Some of those trees still tower over the park.

The Garden Club hired Master Arborist Dave Leonard to survey all the trees in the park, identifying each one, noting its condition, and nailing a numbered metal tag into the trunk. Each number was keyed to a map of the park showing the location of the tree. This survey became the inspiration for the brochure and was given to the Boyle County Fiscal Court, owner of the park, as a guide for future care of the trees.

The map is printed on the brochure. Inside, there is a numbered list of the trees. Each entry includes a silhouette of a leaf and the tree’s general outline. The Latin name is listed, along with a brief description of the species and a few notes about its historical uses. Almost all the trees in the park are native to Kentucky and were used as sources of medicine, food, and materials, first by Native Americans, then by the pioneers who began settling here in the 18th century.

You may not know that 200 years ago sycamore trees in Central Kentucky grew so large that the hollow trunks of mature trees could house a family temporarily or serve as a small barn or storeroom. Pioneers learned this from native Americans, along with the fact that dogwood bark and berries could be used to treat malaria and fevers.

Pioneers also followed the example of Native Americans and hollowed out the tall, straight trunks of tulip poplars to make canoes. Using the map, visitors to the park can locate the two tulip poplars growing there and see why they are well suited to this use. Traditional and current uses for all 24 species of trees are included in the brochure.

With schools moved to online instruction, and now closing for winter vacation, parents are finding the brochure and accompanying activity page helpful for an entertaining field trip to Constitution Square. The scavenger hunt using leaf shapes will have to wait for next spring when leaves reappear, but the maze and word search are fun anytime. In winter you can learn to identify many trees by their bark and branch structure. 

Digital versions of the brochure and activity page were sent to Danville and Boyle County elementary and middle schools, Kentucky School for the Deaf, Danville Christian Academy, and Danville Montessori School.

At Constitution Square, free copies of the brochure and activity pages are available at the Goldsmith House and the Ephraim McDowell Gift Shop. They can also be picked up downtown at Danville Bike and Fitness, Maple Tree Gallery, Bluegrass and Buttercream, Derby Shoppe and Raggs, Boyle County Public Library, and Art Center of the Bluegrass.

A digital version of the brochure and activity page is available on the Heart of Danville Facebook page,

Sara Lamb, member of the Garden Club of Danville and Co-Chair of the Heart of Danville Design Committee, coordinated the creation of the brochure, with research, writing, and editing assistance from Susan Jonas, Alice Biggers, and Diane Meshako. Elizabeth Haigh, a member of the board of Heart of Danville, volunteered many hours to the graphic design of the brochure. “We also thank James Ross for his care of the trees at the park,” added Sara Lamb.