Just 25 years ago, I collected some swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor) acorns at the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain, Mass., brought them back to Maine, germinated them, and, the following year, planted seven of the seedling trees along our driveway.

Just two weeks ago I collected a few dozen acorns from those trees, and they’re now being held under cool, moist conditions and will be planted in our moist woodlot once they germinate.

That first crop of acorns was germinating at the same time as my daughter. She topped them in growth rate for the first few years, but now they’re some 15 or 20 feet tall and nicely spreading. They should reach an ultimate height of about 75 feet. Whenever I walk by them, I’m reminded of my daughter’s (and later, my son’s) daily treks past them to the school bus — and of the fact that if I want to leave more long-lasting trees behind, I’d better get planting.

By long-lived, I mean 300-plus years, which makes Q. bicolor seem like a living time capsule, its acorn more valuable for burying than the usual messages, books, photos and other miscellanea so often stored for the future.

Four of our swamp white oaks grow well where a seasonal stream floods each spring, and sometimes in summer and fall. So these trees can take wet conditions, but not permanent flooding. They can also take dry conditions and “significant soil compaction,” says USDA (NRCS National Plant Data Center and the Biota of North America Program’s Plant Guide, plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_qubi.pdf); and they grow well in the acid soils native to our area.

The USDA also says that swamp white oaks are planted on highway rights-of-way and on large lawns, golf courses, parks and naturalized areas. What a great use for golf courses!

Swamp white oak, like other white oaks, has acorns that are reputed to be tastier than those of red oak, which contain more tannin. Swamp white oaks produce good crops of acorns every few years, with lighter crops in other years, according to Robert Rogers (na.fs.fed.us/pubs/silvics_manual/volume_2/quercus/bicolor.htm). They begin producing acorns around age 20, he adds — which was true of our oaks. Squirrels, rodents, wild ducks, turkeys, other birds, white-tailed deer, beaver and black bear reportedly feed on these acorns.

In addition, the trees provide cover for birds and mammals. One day I was walking to the mailbox and spied a large brown shape among our swamp white oaks. I got a little closer and recognized a moose — which also saw me, and encouraged me to go back to the house and come out later for the mail. I assume he was eating some acorns, rather than taking cover.

Wood from these trees is valuable, sold as white oak — although, because our driveway trees are growing in an open area and we’ve let the lower branches develop, ours will ultimately be of lower value for lumber. Maybe, in my fourth or fifth next life, I’ll regret not having pruned the lower branches, but for now I like the fullness of these specimens.

The new trees that we’ll plant in open areas in our woods will likely have the longer, straighter, taller trunks desired for lumber — used, according to the USDA, for “furniture, cabinets, veneers, interior finishing and flooring, as well as for boxes, crates, fence posts, railroad ties, and beams and boards for general construction. As in white oak, the wood provides tight cooperage and was once widely used in making barrels and kegs.” Will we still be making these things in 300 years?

The USDA says that Native Americans and pioneers ate swamp white oak acorns, raw or cooked, grinding them into a powder for thickening stews or mixing them with cereals to make bread. They have also been roasted, ground and used as a coffee substitute.

Sometimes the larvae of insects make galls on the leaves of these trees, and these galls can be used for dyeing, says USDA, adding that their astringency is also useful in treating hemorrhages, chronic diarrhea and dysentery; and, “Some Native Americans used swamp white oak to treat cholera, broken bones and consumption.”

Even without needing to treat broken bones and cholera, growing something that might be around for 250 or 300 years after you’re gone makes you feel useful.