Sustaining 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 venerable 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 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.

Those seedlings were grown from 10 bushels of acorns that were trucked across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to a nursery near Baltimore-Washington International Airport. They were planted in the spring of '92 and now form three beds. Each is 300 feet long.

The state has been selling seedlings from the Wye Oak since the 1970s. This time, an urgency is felt to regenerate the historic tree.

"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."

Anne Arundel County residents have a good reason to support this propagation project.

Many trees were destroyed during the explosive building boom of the past two decades and ought to be replaced.

One can hardly think of a better shade tree than a Wye Oak derivative. One Southern Maryland man reports his seedling, bought in 1976, has already grown into a 22-foot tree.

The other reason is that the seedlings are grown at the Buckingham Forest Tree Nursery right here in the county.

A mere $25 buys a seedling that will last several lifetimes. 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 in Linthicum by calling 410-859-7730.

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