The biggest tree in Baltimore?

I’ve taken photographs of trees for years now. There is a quality they possess that charms me every time. This is a palm tree from Sienna, Italy, 2000.

A giant Sequoia in Muir Woods, Marin County, CA 2008.

A banyan tree in Hilo, HA, Lili’uokalani Gardens, 2006.

Could this palm be any more over the top? Kauai, 2004.

This is a Japanese Maple in the Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA. 2008.

As is so often the case I didn’t even need to go anywhere to find the most spectacular tree I’ve seen, because it’s two blocks from my house in the park I go to every day to walk my dogs, Herring Run Park, in beautiful Baltimore, MD. The park was designed, in part, by the Olmstead brothers. Frederick Law Olmstead designed Central Park in Manhattan. I recently wrote to Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources to ask about the process of determining which tree receives recognition as the biggest, or the oldest. Here’s the response I received from John Bennett, Maryland Big Tree Program volunteer coordinator.

I believe the tree to which you refer is a swamp white oak, registry # BT-0880, last measured March 27, 2010, by members of the Maryland Big Tree Program and the Baltimore City Forestry Board.  It is listed as being in the Hall Springs Soccer Field portion of the park.   That tree is the Baltimore City Champion for that species and  the #3 of that species in Maryland.  The State Champion is located in Prince George’s County, at 370 points.  The city tree has a circumference of 17′ 4″, a height of 86′ and the crown spread of 92.5′. The total point value is 317.  The United States Champion is located in Franklinville, New Jersey, at 380 points.  As you can see, our Maryland Champion is just ten points smaller than the largest tree of this species in the United States.  We believe the Prince George’s tree is the #2 tree in the United States.

Swamp white oaks are close relatives to the more widely distributed white oaks, Maryland’s State Tree.  They have similar bark, but are typically found in wet, swampy areas, as the name would imply.  The leaf is actually quite different in design, but the bud, acorn, bark and twig are very similar.

Should you wish to learn more about the process, contact Amanda Cunningham, amandahc@erols.com, or Sarah Lord at fennofarm@mac.com.  Both are members of the Baltimore City Forestry Board.  There are several very large willow oaks located in the NE corner of the City which need to be measured, and you may be interested in observing the process when they are scheduled to be done.

Apart from the willow oaks mentioned, which are yet to be measured, this is probably the largest tree in Baltimore, and as such, it deserves our recognition. Sadly, Herring Run Park  has some garbage issues, especially the soccer fields where the tree stands, but every year the Friends of Herring Run do a park clean-up to try and get a handle on the amazing amount of plastic bags in the area & along the creek. This year maybe we can do something special to commemorate the tree, maybe a celebration on the Vernal Equinox, or the Summer Solstice. Any ideas or comments can be left here.

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4 thoughts on “The biggest tree in Baltimore?

  1. Sorry but this Swamp White Oak Baltimore Champion is dead! On August 1,2010 a fire was started by vandals who dumped hot coals into a spot a pot that was unfortunately placed under the tree. The fire traveled 25 feet up the trunk. The Friends of Herring Run Parks promoted a treatment program to save the tree but the following spring there was no sign of new growth. We are now requesting city forestry to remove the lifeless tree for safety on the playing fields.

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