Champions with bark Maryland's champion trees: Several of nation's most impressive trees grow here.

August 13, 1996

MARYLAND IS HOME to 14 national champions that did not compete in the 100th Olympiad. These champions are unlikely to ever get any fat endorsement contracts or appear on a box of Wheaties. Their cousins, in fact, may even become a box of Wheaties.

We're referring to Maryland's big trees.

While they may not have the notoriety of Timonium gold-medalist swimmer Beth Botsford, some of them are hard to miss.

A red southern oak in Anne Arundel County's Galesville -- known as Mr. Mustache for the distinctive handlebar curves of its lower branches -- is 104 feet tall or equivalent to a 10-story building. Its trunk measures 27 feet 7 inches, or more than 9 yards, in circumference. This magnificent specimen can be seen for miles. The American Forestry Association designated it a champion about 20 years ago.

The Wye Oak in Wye Mills in Talbot County has been a national champion for 50 years. This huge white oak on the Eastern Shore is probably the best-known of the state champions.

Maryland is home to a number of other equally impressive, but less well-known, trees. Most people probably don't pay much attention to the English elm standing at the corner of Lombard and Greene streets in downtown Baltimore, but it is the nation's largest. So is the holly hall oak in Cecil County, which now sits in the middle of parking lot of a shopping center that bears its name.

Not all the trees are gigantic, but they are the largest identified of their species. The nation's largest crab apple tree, with a circumference of eight feet, sits on the Eastern Shore. Carroll County is the proud location of a black mulberry whose trunk is nearly 21 feet around. Baltimore County has four national champions -- common choke cherry, gray birch, turkey oak and arborvitae.

Alas, these several-hundred year-old organisms can't go on forever. The national champion elm on the grounds of Washington College in Chestertown succumbed to Dutch elm disease, and a champion American Larch in Baltimore County toppled over a few years ago. Like the impressive performances delivered by our fellow homo sapiens during the Olympics, these home-grown trees also leave us with a sense of appreciation and awe.

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