The Man Who Loved the Wye Oak

January 07, 1994

Since 1941, when it was officially designated as such by the Maryland General Assembly, the Wye Oak on the Eastern Shore has been the official state tree. No one quite knows the age of the white oak, which is 104 feet high, has a horizontal spread of 160 feet and a trunk that measures 32 feet around. It is guessed to be at least 400 years old.

However, time is running out on this stately giant. Reports have been circulating for years that the famous tree is dying but no one knows for sure when that will occur.

To be on the safe side, state officials are preparing for that eventuality. They are in the process of selling 12,000 seedlings sprouted from the last crop of acorns the oak dropped two years ago.

A mere $25 buys a seedling that will last several lifetimes.

"We want to get as many seedlings planted across the country as we can," said Michael Grant, marketing supervisor for the state Forest Service. "This may be the last chance. That is why we are acting with a sense of urgency."

Carroll County residents have a special reason to support this propagation project. The late Earl L. Yingling, a longtime Manchester resident, was the chief caretaker of the Wye Oak.

Wye Oak seedlings have been planted in Manchester and elsewhere in Carroll County in memory of Mr. Yingling, who was the state forester and first president of the Mid-Atlantic chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture.

Last October, Manchester became the first town in Maryland to win a Gold Leaf Award from that chapter in recognition of its planting 100 trees along Main Street during the past two years.

Mr. Yingling was instrumental in the project, persuading Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. to install Main Street wires on extra high poles to allow clearance for the trees.

State officials pushed Wye Oak seedlings as Christmas gifts. Still, thousands remain, ready to be shipped from the Buckingham Forest Tree Nursery in Anne Arundel County this spring. Purchasers will also receive a certificate of authenticity, a drawing of the Wye Oak and a written history of the majestic tree.

This is a good cause. Wye Oak seedlings can be ordered from the nursery by calling 410-859-7730.


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