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Three new Maryland Big Tree Champions certified in Bel Air

A weeping cherry in Bel Air is one of three local trees that has been added to the Maryland Champion Big Tree list.
A weeping cherry in Bel Air is one of three local trees that has been added to the Maryland Champion Big Tree list. (Courtesy of Harford Forestry Board / Baltimore Sun)

The Harford County Forestry Board recently documented three Maryland champion trees, all located in Bel Air, and five Harford County champion trees from the 21 trees its members measured this year for the Big Tree List.

The three state champion trees, including a weeping cherry, umbrella magnolia and dawn redwood, all have been documented, Frank Lopez, the state forester for Cecil and Harford counties, said Tuesday.

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A final measurement of a Caucasian wingnut in Harford County will come later, but it too is poised to be the state champion, according to Lopez.

Lopez, who is executive secretary for the Harford Forestry Board – also formally known as the Harford Forest Conservancy District Board, said the three new State Champion trees can't be viewed by the public because they are on private property. The public is welcome to look at state and county champion trees on public property, he added.

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The board also recorded new Harford County Champions: a pignut hickory, mockernut hickory, pin oak, black oak and northern red oak.

The Harford County Champion pin oak is on the Bel Air Library property, at the corner of East Pennsylvania Avenue and Hickory Avenue, and the northern red oak is on the Rockfield Park mansion property.

The list of big trees was established 90 years ago, in 1925, by Fred W. Besley, Maryland's first state forester, according to Lopez.

The purpose of the list is: "…to locate 'the largest living specimens of American trees and focus attention on the benefits of conserving these cherished landmarks,' " according a Forestry Board news release. The list has been adopted and replicated in all 50 states and across the globe.

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"It's a nice program," Lopez said. "It gives you a sense of having a tree that's important, and if it had eyes it has seen many things happen over its many years of being alive."

To determine a champion tree, board members measure the circumference of the trunk, the height of the tree and the spread of its branches. Then, they use a formula to total the points each tree receives for each measurement. This total score determines the champion tree of each species for the county, state and nation.

Lopez said volunteers such as John Bennett, who is in charge of the Maryland Big Tree Program, along with Harford Forestry Board members Geoff Graff, Jim Sherring, Ron Swatski, took part in the measurements.

"It's a recognition program for people who have these trees and it does provide opportunities for the public to see certain ones, where it's appropriate, and admire them," Lopez said.

There are hundreds of state champion trees in Maryland, including several in Harford County. More information on the Big Tree List is available at www.mdbigtrees.com.

The Harford Forestry Board is made up of volunteers associated with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service. Similar boards are in each county and Baltimore City to promote the planting and care of trees and forests throughout Maryland. Each board focuses on education, outreach, stewardship and service and helping the DNR Forest Service meet their goals, according to the news release.

The Harford Forestry Board is offering an evening course entitled "Woodland Education" at Harford Community College on consecutive Thursdays in September and October, beginning this Thursday, Sept. 10.

If you own or manage a wooded area from 0.25 acres to over 5 acres, this course may be of interest. Woodland owners will learn how to manage their properties to enhance fish and wildlife habitat, preserve natural beauty, replace invasive exotic species with native plants, provide family recreation, conserve soil and improve water quality and maintain the overall quality and health of their woods.

The course is in HCC's noncredit course catalog or online at http://www2.harford.edu.

The Forestry Board meets monthly, on the second Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. at the DNR office conference room in the Mary Risteau State Office Building in Bel Air. The public is welcome. To contact the board, call DNR at 410-836-4564 and ask for Lopez.

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