Not only could the tree mimic the university’s colors, but it also would honor two people who have transformed Belknap Campus into a campus arboretum — President James Ramsey and his wife, Jane.
Henry Heuser Jr., philanthropist and former chair of the UofL Board of Overseers, made that announcement May 17 at the Whitehall House and Garden’s Summer Celebration in Louisville, which also was in James Ramsey’s honor.
Heuser teamed with Whitehall arborist Michael Hayman several years ago to find a plant to honor the Ramseys.
“We wanted an unusually nice tree and we wanted an oak,” Hayman said. There were several false starts in the search, including efforts to create a hybrid tree.
Just before the Whitehall event, everything came together, Hayman said. He had learned about a white hybrid oak that grows naturally in Kentucky, sent budwood to a propagator last March, and now as many as 50 little budded trees are coming in.
“The propagator sent us a couple early so we could present Dr. Ramsey with a little tree last Friday when we announced naming the tree” in his and his wife’s honor, Hayman said.
“It’s one of the most wonderful honors I’ve ever received,” Ramsey said. “What could be more special than to have a newly discovered type of tree named after you?”
Heuser is sponsoring the initial production of the Ramsey Oak.
“It’s a really nice tree,” said Hayman, who described it as having a horizontal shape, good natural architecture and, depending on conditions, being capable of brilliant red fall display similar to UofL’s Cardinal red.
The remaining little trees will arrive in Louisville this fall. They will grow over the next three to four years to a size that can be planted in local landscapes. Hayman will start another propagation cycle this year.
If planted in an appropriate site, Hayman said, the tree is capable of living for hundreds of years.