by John Ferro, Poughkeepsie Journal, link to original post WITH PHOTO
Dutchess County has a new champion. Only this one is 20 feet thick, 114 feet tall and something of a rock star.
Say hello to the Dover Oak, so named because it sits along West Dover Road. (Never mind the fact that it grows in the Town of Pawling.)
Along the Appalachian Trail, this white oak is as close to an arboreal celebrity as you can get. It’s been photographed, written about in guide books and highlighted on the Internet. And now, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation, it’s a champion.
The tree was recently added to the DEC’s Big Tree Register. By using a special scoring system that measures circumference, height and canopy size, the Dover Oak scored 397 points, making it the biggest white oak in the state.
The national champion white oak, with a score of 458 points, is in Clay, Ind. The Dover Oak was nominated by DEC staffer Jim Close, who was walking the Appalachian Trail when he came across the tree. “It’s so huge, you can’t help but notice it,” he said.
And many do. Because the tree sits right along the trail — and within a few feet of a county highway — it gets a lot of eyes. “There are two famous large white oaks on the Appalachian Trail,” said Laurie Potteiger, spokeswoman for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Harpers Ferry, W.Va. “One is the Dover Oak and the other is the Keffer Oak in Virginia. Both of them are legendary. Both are virtually right on the trail. And interestingly, both are in, or adjacent to, open areas.”
The state has maintained its register since the 1970s, although records of tree surveys date back to 1943, said Gloria Van Duyne, a communications specialist with the DEC and the coordinator of the Big Tree Register.
“It’s a way to highlight big trees and get people to take care of them and spark an interest in trees in general,” Van Duyne said. “These days, we are hoping it actually sparks in interest in urban forests, which sometimes have big trees. In developed communities, or estates, you have large trees that have been saved from clearing for agriculture, and some of them are over 100 years old.”
Van Duyne and Close estimated the Dover Oak’s age at 150 years, but cautioned that a tree’s age cannot be calculated accurately without examining its core.
The register lists only native and naturalized species. It does not include hybrid species. “They are the largest native or naturalized trees that have been reported — and I have to stress, that have been reported,” Van Duyne said. “There could be a tree out there in a forest that is bigger that we don’t know about.”
Anyone can nominate a tree, although a tree’s dimensions must be confirmed by someone who is experienced at measuring trees.
The state register is part of a cooperative effort with American Forests, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that maintains the National Register of Big Trees. New York champion trees are considered for national champion status, as the Dover Oak was.
Trees that do not knock off a current champion can be considered as “national challengers” whose records are kept on file by American Forests in case a champion tree dies or is cut down.