St. John's College will wait to decide fate of Liberty Tree; Arborist plans to give prognosis next week


St. John's College officials will wait to decide the fate of Maryland's ailing Liberty Tree early next week, after a state-commissioned arborist says whether the 96-foot tulip poplar can be saved.

The 400-year-old tree on St. John's front lawn -- the only survivor of the original 13 under which colonists gathered in the 1770s to incite revolt against British rule -- took a beating last week from Hurricane Floyd.

In the aftermath of the storm, officials of the Annapolis college discovered a 15-foot-long crack down the middle of the tree's trunk and a large branch breaking away toward a nearby dormitory.

Jeff Bishop, St. John's vice president, said Brett Linkletter, the state arborist, examined the tree for 45 minutes yesterday afternoon and will announce his prognosis next week.

"Like everyone else who sees that tree up close, [Linkletter] was awed by its age and surprising health but concerned about the trauma that's been inflicted on it," Bishop said. "He said he needs to study it a little more before he gives us an opinion."

Linkletter is the fourth arborist to inspect the tree. The others, summoned by college officials, recommended taking the tree down.

The Maryland Department of General Services sent Linkletter to St. John's after Gov. Parris N. Glendening instructed state agencies to determine how they could save the tree.

Linkletter did not have good news yesterday. Bishop said the arborist discovered the tree's crack had grown to 16 feet.

Bishop said several city and state officials and residents have called to offer help in raising funds for the tree. Some have offered rooms for the six students who were evacuated from the dormitory closest to the broken branch, he said.

"It's wonderful that everyone is trying to help out," he said. "But we're all still anxious."

Pub Date: 9/24/99

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