The Wye Oak was the honorary state tree of Maryland, and the largest white oak tree in the United States. Located in the town of Wye Mills, Talbot County, Maryland, the Wye Oak was believed to be over 460 years old at the time of its destruction during a severe thunderstorm on June 6, 2002, and measured 31 feet 10 inches (970 cm) in circumference of the trunk at diameter at breast height, 96 feet (29 m) high, with a crown spread of 119 feet (36 m). It is believed that the acorn that became the oak germinated around the year 1540.
The Wye Oak first drew the attention of the public in 1909, when Fred W. Besley, the first Maryland State Forester, made the first official measurement of the tree. Ten years later, in 1919, it was featured in American Forester magazine. In 1939, the Maryland General Assembly purchased the tree and almost 30 acres (121,000 m²) surrounding it and established the Wye Oak State Park. The Wye Oak inspired Besley to found the Big Tree Champion Program in 1925; as a result, in 1940 the American Forestry Association named the Wye Oak one of its first National Champion Trees. By the time of its destruction 62 years later, only one other tree named that year remained standing.
Dr. Frank Gouin, Professor Emeritus of Horticulture at the University of Maryland, College Park, impressed both by the age and size of the tree, as well as its unusual resistance to oak wilt fungus and the gypsy moth, led a successful effort to clone the Wye Oak. The first two cloned saplings were planted at Mount Vernon on April 26, 2002. Its exceptionally long life has been attributed to the efforts of park managers, who applied preventative measures such as fertilizer and insecticide, as well as extensive pruning, cabling, and bracing to the branches.
The tree fell during a heavy thunderstorm with high winds on the night of June 6, 2002.
The site of the Wye Oak remains largely untouched, and the descriptive plaque placed there in 1921 remains at the site. Next to the site of the tree, and also maintained as part Wye Oak State Park, is a one-room brick schoolhouse hailing from the colonial period. It is the second oldest schoolhouse in Talbot County.
With the demise of the Wye Oak, the Linden Oak in North Bethesda, Maryland, is now the largest white oak tree in the US. (It is located beside the junction of Rockville Pike and Rock Creek Park's Beach Drive, and when the Washington Metro was constructed, a special curve was added to the tracks in order to protect the tree.)
At its creation in 1939 the park containing the Wye Oak was a little over an acre in size, according to Wye Oak, The History of a Great Tree, by Dickson J. Preston (1972, Tidewater Publishers, Cambridge, Maryland 21613, ISBN 0-87033-180-9) on p. 98: "[A]t 2:45 p.m. on September 20, 1939, just before the options were due to expire, the deeds transferring title to the State of Maryland were recorded at the Talbot County Courthouse in Easton. The Kinnamon and Straughn lots were identical in size: each had a frontage of 74½ feet and extended back from the road for a distance of 19 perches (a perch equals a rod, or 16½ feet, so that their depth was 313.5 feet). The park thus created was about an acre and a half [sic; this actually works out to just over an acre] in size -- the smallest in the state and perhaps in the nation, though not nearly as small as most people thought."
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