By Rick Palsgrove, Columbus Messenger
Featured Story – 2nd Place
Some giants are hidden in plain sight. Recently Marc DeWerth of the organization Big Trees Ohio came across two such giants in southern Madison Township.
The Bur Oak
“I was driving home from Tar Hollow and was heading toward Groveport when I noticed this large Bur Oak tree along the side of the road,” said DeWerth. “I’m always looking for mega trees so I pulled off the road to check it out. I said to myself, ‘Wow, this is a nice tree!”
What DeWerth found, when measured by Big Trees Ohio turned out to be a tree so large that tied the state record for largest Bur Oak. The tree is located on private property along Lithopolis Road near the Walnut Woods Metro Park office.
“The Bur Oak that Marc DeWerth nominated is tied for state champion status,” said Alistair Reynolds, Ohio Champion Tree Coordinator for the Ohio Division of Forestry. “As it has tied with another tree they are considered co-champions. When I visited the tree, the leaves were not fully developed, and oaks hybridize, so I will return to confirm the species soon. The other champion Bur Oak is located in Pickaway County on the south bank of Giffery Run.”
DeWerth said the Bur Oak along Lithopolis Road is 105 feet tall, its trunk is 18 feet in circumference, and is estimated to be between 150 to 200 years old.
“It also has a really large tree canopy,” said DeWerth.
The Bur Oak is on land owned by Dr. William Mills, who said it was a nice surprise to find out the tree is a state champion.
“There used to be a one room schoolhouse here and older people have told me the tree was big even way back then,” said Mills. “Mother Nature has hammered the tree over the years and it’s been struck by lightning. But it keeps on growing and keeps on living.”
Mills said he plans to talk with Walnut Woods Metro Parks officials about cutting the brush away from around the tree so it is more visible and maybe placing a plaque by it denoting its significance.
“We’ll do what we can to keep this historic tree going,” said Mills.
The Pin Oak
While in the area DeWerth also came across another giant tree, a Pin Oak located in Walnut Woods Metro Park in the park’s Tall Pines Area along the mowed path. This tree is the second largest Pin Oak in the state. He said the Pin Oak is 110 feet tall, its trunk is 19 feet in circumference, and is between 150 to 200 years old.
“This Pin Oak is very close in size to the two current co-champions. One is located in Clermont County and the second is located in Cuyahoga County,” said Reynolds.
“We noticed this treasure right away when Metro Parks first acquired the land, since most of our trees are remaining nursery trees and are not large in size,” said Walnut Woods Metro Park Manager Mindi McConnell of the Pin Oak. “Trees of this size play an important role for many cavity nesting birds in Ohio. They provide habitats for animals such as owls, woodpeckers, ducks, kestrels, bluebirds, purple martins and much more. Younger trees lack the cavities that the older tree have, that is why preserving these older trees are so important.”
McConnell said the Pin Oak in Walnut Woods Metro Park helps explain a bit of the history of the area.
“According to Roger Klamfoth,” said McConnell, “the 247 acre Tall Pines Area of Walnut Woods was once equally split into two farms over 100 years ago – the Miller and the Klamfoth farms. The Pin Oak tree stood near the central boundaries of the two farms. The tree itself was actually on the Klamfoth side. Roger vividly remembers the Pin Oak tree from his youth.”
About Big Trees Ohio
DeWerth said members of Big Trees Ohio are active hikers who enjoy flora and fauna and who are always on the lookout for trees that are hidden gems.
“We do it for fun, it’s our hobby to find the trees and measure them,” said DeWerth. “We’re always interested in finding more large trees. We want to educate people and raise awareness about the trees, promote conservation, and nominate trees for consideration for the state record. We’re interested in any tree over 16 feet in circumference.”
DeWerth said large, old trees can be found anywhere, including yards, cemeteries, golf courses, and farms.
According to DeWerth, one such tree found in a cemetery is a 600-year-old Great White Oak located in the Jewish cemetery in Logan.
“You can’t miss it,” said DeWerth. “It’s a great tree and well maintained. You can’t help but hear music when you walk up to it.”
Large trees are unusual, but not as much as you would think, according to DeWerth.
“Many times large trees were used to mark property lines,” he said, adding that large trees were also used as signs such as the ones that exist in strip mining areas because they were used to direct trucks.
DeWerth encourages people to be aware of the trees around them.
“You never know what you may have,” he said.
DeWerth said he especially likes the eastern hardwood trees.
“There’s nothing prettier than a forest of oaks and maples in full color,” said DeWerth.
To learn more about big trees, how to measure them, and how to nominate them for state consideration, visit Big Trees Ohio on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also visit the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Foresty Division website at forestry.ohiodnr.gov/bigtree.