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Green Tips & Tricks

Treasure Hunt for Historic Trees By Karen Verna Carlson, N.D., Ph.D. (Hon.)

A local registry of 300+-year-old native trees is being maintained since the last quarter of the last century. Foresters, naturalists, ecologists, botanists and nature lovers in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland have been locating, appreciating, monitoring and tending trees “that have been living for three centuries ever since William Penn arrived on the bank of the Delaware River to initiate his ‘Holy Experiment.’” So states the Introduction to Penn’s Woods 1682-1982, edited by H. W. Wertz and M. J. Callender (Haverford House, Wayne, PA 1981).

Tis book updates Penn’s Woods: 1682-1932 by Dr. Edward Wildman who undertook the identification and registry of Penn Trees during the Sesquicentennial celebration of Philadelphia’s founding. He documented 400. Fiſty years passed. In 1982 there were 139 trees registered, with 17 in Delaware. Now another forty years later how many of those are hale and hearty? Has every eligible tree been catalogued? You can help answer both questions if you want.

• Old Trees Are Big •

Enjoying autumn outdoors, it’s easy to recognize a really old tree. If it’s only a hundred or so, the diameter would be about 30 inches, which would make its circumference at chest height—four and a half feet above ground—almost eight feet. Two adults could hold hands around it.

Here are some Penn Trees to spot around Wilmington. Te tallest native old tree in Delaware grows on a hillside in

Chandler’s Woods at Winterthur. Tis Tulip Poplar towers more than 150 feet, with a circumference of about 18 feet.

On the hillside at Hercules, our state’s largest

(circumference exceeds 23 feet) and possibly oldest White Oak is trussed with steel cables to keep it in good health. It takes three adults to encircle this trunk. 34

• Washington and Lafayete Meet •

Te famous Council Oak on the east side of Route 41 near Brandywine Springs County Park Office, was where Washington and Lafayete met in 1777 before the Batle of Brandywine. Its chest-height circumference is more than 20 feet.

Tere’s an ash more than 300 years old and 22 feet around in Hockessin on David Gregg’s property across from his Bus Depot.

With a litle care, white oaks have lived as long as 800 years. Tulip Poplars under good conditions live half as long. White Ash can grow more than 400 years.

• Ancient Natives Trive •

“[Trees] surpass all other organic beings in height, size and age,” states Delaware Trees by William Taber, State Forestry Department Publication #6; “Tere are about 115 species, with their varieties, native to Delaware.” Oaks, Ash and Tulip Poplars are the native 300+-year-olds in Delaware, but step over into Pennsylvania to find historic Sycamores (Butonwood), Beeches, Hemlocks, Black Oaks, Red Oaks, Bur Oaks, Bender Oaks, a Black Walnut, Sweet Cherry and a Chinkapin (yellow) Oak. Brandywine Batlefield Park on U.S. Route 1 is the site of Te Lafayete Sycamore, where legend claims the leader’s batle wound to his leg was treated.

Paddle over to New jersey to find more of those colonial species, plus Pin Oaks, Willow Oaks, Scarlet Oaks, Post Oaks, Chestnut Oaks, American Elm, Bald Cypress, Wild Black Cherry, Blackgum (or Sourgum), Sweetgum, Swamp White Oaks, Southern Red or Spanish Oaks, and American Holly.

— continued on next page October 2012

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