National tree campaign taking root

April 17, 2001|By Parijat Didolkar

The governor of Indiana is putting his money on the yellow poplar. Retirees in Lincoln, Neb., are rallying around the Eastern Cottonwood. An Ohioan is promoting the Buckeye. There's even a write-in campaign for the Giant Sequoia.

But the results of the National Arbor Day Foundation's campaign to select a "national tree" won't be unveiled until April 27 at a ceremony in Washington celebrating National Arbor Day.

It's a "people's choice" kind of poll through which, if the foundation has its way, a tree will join the roster of America's national symbols - the rose, the bald eagle and In God We Trust.

"It's a chance for people to cast a vote on a tree that is meaningful to them," says Gary Brinzo, a spokesman for the foundation based in Nebraska City, Neb.

So far the vote tally is in the "six figures," says Brinzo, "and is growing by the thousands each day."

The frontrunner appears to be the oak, in the words of Brinzo, "storied and long-lived." The maple is suffering because of its affiliation with America's neighbor to the north, he says.

But other trees are garnering support from unlikely sources. Frank O'Bannon, the governor of Indiana, is working this campaign like a seasoned veteran. He is getting out the vote for the state tree, Liriodendron tulipifera, the yellow-flowering tulip tree also known as a yellow poplar.

To promote the dogwood, a student from Nebraska wrote a rap song.

The state forester for Maryland, Steve Koehn, would like to see the White Oak get the nod because the state is populated mostly by pines and oaks. It is a strong wood, often used to make barrels for wine and wood, he said. Baltimore's clipper ships were crafted from oak and pine, he adds.

And while Koehn supports the concept of a national tree, he says choosing one tree to represent the nation is "difficult to do because of the differences [in tree species] between the East and West and North and South."

But that hasn't stopped a food services company from championing the Giant Sequoia.

Delaware North Parks Service, which operates concessions in Sequoia National Park, announced the "bi-partisan" campaign with a clever press packet that includes a bit of the real green - a sequoia seedling and instructions on how to grow it.

"The Giant Sequoia is among the tallest and biggest and oldest trees growing throughut the United States," says John Moscato, a spokesman for Delaware North Parks Services, a subsidiary of a Buffalo, N.Y.-based company that runs food and beverage concessions at airports, sporting events and national parks. "It's known to be a sturdy, durable tree. It survives generations of people."

Voting for the candidates is taking place on the National Arbor Day Foundation's website, (www.arborday.org). An official designation, however, must come from Congress.

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