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Did You Know? O.C. Heiress Donates 200-Year-Old Inheritance
by: Debbie L. Sklar
The soon-to-be donated trees grew from 200 year old seeds.
The soon-to-be donated trees grew from 200 year old seeds.

Thirty-six Oak trees will call the Orange County Great Park home soon thanks to Philanthropist Joan Irvine Smith.

The heiress and philanthropist to the Irvine Ranch recently donated the trees she grew on her San Juan Capistrano ranch, with another 70 trees to come during the Orange County Great Park forestation project where the oaks will be planted.

Irvine Smith is the great-granddaughter of James Irvine II, who is said to have “sold seven square miles of lima bean fields to the United States Navy to allow for the development of the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.” The trees will be part of the former military base that is being turned into a great metropolitan park.

The trees are the final product of loose acorns Irvine Smith gathered from trees 200 and 300 years old that were growing on her horse farm. What were once small trees started in one gallon containers now stand proud at 7 feet tall.

“It gives me great pleasure to donate to the Great Park 106 California Coastal Oaks which I have grown here at my farm The Oaks in San Juan Capistrano. My grandfather James Irvine II loved nature and in particular the beautiful oaks and sycamore trees located in Irvine Park. Given the many years that my family and I have enjoyed the park this is my way to continue my grandfather’s great legacy for generations to come,” said Joan Irvine Smith.

In the past, she has donated trees to the City of San Juan Capistrano, University of California, Irvine and the Great Park. The most recent donation will be recorded in the Great Park Tree Registry, which people can access online and learn how to donate trees and make contributions for the care of trees at the Great Park.


Debbie L. Sklar is a 20+year journalism veteran residing in Southern California, where she is a writer, columnist and editor for many local, regional and national publications. Sklar may be reached via e-mail at

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