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West Goshen Township celebrated Arbor Day this year by honoring the past and encouraging the planting of trees for the future.
The celebration was held on Friday, April 29, at Oaklands Cemetery, a beautiful, heavily wooded natural burial park in the western section of the township. Supervisor Tinamarie Smith read the Arbor Day proclamation, which commemorated the life and work of Joseph Trimble Rothrock, called the “Father of Pennsylvania Forestry,” who died in 1922 and is buried at Oaklands. The timing is fitting, as the last week of April was designated in 1961 by the Pennsylvania General Assembly as “Joseph T. Rothrock Memorial Conservation Week.”
Dr. Rothrock, a professor of botany at the University of Pennsylvania and longtime West Chester resident, became an exceptionally successful advocate for the restoration of the commonwealth’s forests, which were devastated by indiscriminate logging by the late 19th century. Thanks to him, today there are over 2.2 million acres of state forests and 17 million acres total of forests across the state.
The Arbor Day celebration continued by recognizing the newest addition to the Township’s list of “heritage trees,” which are venerable trees distinguished by size, age, or both. Thanks to the efforts of the Goshen Tree Tenders, a volunteer group, a native black gum tree (Nyssa sylvatica) in the cemetery is documented as being the fifth largest in the state. Typically found as an understory tree in a forest, this black gum is situated on the crest of a south facing hill, shading one of the older burial areas.
Celebrants then visited the grave of Dr. William Darlington at the south end of the cemetery. Darlington, who was a distant relative of Dr. Rothrock, was the most prominent Chester County botanist in the first half of the 19th century, compiling a comprehensive tome that described all plants found in the county. He was also a practicing physician, president of the National Bank of Chester County, and a multi-term member of the U.S. Congress. His tombstone is adorned with a relief of his namesake plant, Darlingtonia californica, the cobra lily.
All attendees received sugar maple seedlings courtesy of Bartlett Tree Experts, to carry on the tradition of planting trees, ensuring the future of Penn’s Woods.