By Martha R. Fehl
Photo Credit: US Forest Service Photo, 1929
Do you have a special tree?
It could be your special tree because you like to climb it, or because it provides shade for a picnic spot or because it has brightly colored fall leaves or fragrant flowers in the spring.
Does your special tree stand taller and wider or seem stronger and older than the trees near it? Then your special tree, perhaps one in your yard or neighborhood or in a nearby forest, might be a historic specimen.
One such special tree located in Maryland was known as the Wye Oak. The dowager of the nation's white oaks, its name came from its location near the village of Wye Mills.
It wasn’t until 1909 that the huge oak tree was officially recognized for its size. Ten years later, the Wye Oak was honored in American Forestry Magazine’s Tree Hall of Fame. Later, the American Forestry Association started looking for Big Tree Champions. In 1940, the Wye Oak held the title of the largest white oak in America.
Long-respected as the state symbol of Maryland, the Wye Oak collapsed in a very severe thunderstorm in June,2002. It was believed to have been more than 500 years old at the time it fell. Try to imagine its size. It was 31 feet and 8 inches in circumference, 96 feet tall and its crown spread 119 feet.
Many people were very sad to see the tree fall. Fortunately, the Wye Oak lives on because Maryland forestry experts collected and saved acorns from the tree and made them available. People planted the acorns and are watching them grow into a new generation of oak trees. Maybe one will grow as large as its ancestor.
You can see more photographs of the Wye Oak at http://www.nal.usda.gov/speccoll/images1/wye.html
Another kind of oak tree—a live oak—was probably a seedling at the same time as the Wye Oak. Sadly, like the Wye Oak, it has died, but it was the efforts of those who tried to save it from a vandal’s chain saw damage that gave it its name—the Inspiration Oak.
The Inspiration Oak located in Magnolia Springs, Ala., was a huge, historic live oak that also dated back to the voyage of Christopher Columbus.
During an argument over about the ownership of the property it stood on, someone girdled (cut a circle around) the massive tree on Oct. 12, 1990, with a chain saw, cutting into vital growth areas for the tree. Despite many efforts to save the oak, it died.
Around 15,000 people came every month for a couple of years to see forestry experts’ attempts to save the tree. They used water spraying system, and built a greenhouse around the base of the tree. However, the cut had harmed the important tissue that allowed the tree to grow, and it could not be saved.
Lights now cloak the skeletal outlines of the tree, and it sits as a silent sentinel without the leaves or Spanish moss that once surrounded it. Its huge 192-foot frame from tip to tip measures 27 feet in circumference, and it is shedding bark.
Both of these enormous and long-lived trees were members of the same family of trees. There are other famous long lived oak trees in America and many stories surround them.
Five years after being voted the United States’ favorite tree, President George W. Bush signed a historic bill in 2004 that made America’s national tree the oak tree.
You can read more about the Wye Oak at http://dnr.maryland.gov/naturalresource/fall2002/wyeoak.html
Read more about the Inspiration Oak at http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2000/nov/19/visitors_find_inspiration/
Find more oak tree stories at http://www.arcytech.org/java/population/oak_stories.html