Wye Oak

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For the indie rock band, see Wye Oak (band).
Wye Oak State Park
Maryland State Park
Wye Oak.jpg
Wye Oak, September 1929
Country United States
State Maryland
County Talbot
Elevation 43 ft (13 m) [1]
Coordinates 38°56′21″N 76°04′51″W / 38.93917°N 76.08083°W / 38.93917; -76.08083Coordinates: 38°56′21″N 76°04′51″W / 38.93917°N 76.08083°W / 38.93917; -76.08083 [1]
Area 29 acres (12 ha) [2]
Established 1939
Management Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Location in Maryland
Website: Wye Oak State Park

The Wye Oak was the honorary state tree of Maryland and the largest white oak tree in the United States. The site where the tree stood until 2002 in the town of Wye Mills, Talbot County, is preserved as Wye Oak State Park.[3]


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. It measured 31 feet 10 inches (970 cm) in circumference of the trunk at breast height, 96 feet (29 m) high, with a crown spread of 119 feet (36 m).[3] 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. 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. The tree faced a loss of a large limb in 1956 that sparked concerns, and another limb fell in 1984 that weighed 70,280 lbs.[4]

The tree fell during a heavy thunderstorm with high winds on the night of June 6, 2002. Wood from the destroyed tree was used to build a new desk for the Maryland governor's office.[5] Wood was also collected and distributed to artists and craftspersons including the aging of beer by a Baltimore craft brewery,[6] and a 3-dimensional collage by artist Lawrence Romorini that was displayed at the Easton Academy Art Museum, Easton Airport and Maryland Department of Natural Resources.[7]

Cloning of Wye Oak[edit]

A clone of the Wye Oak, planted on June 6, 2006 in a special ceremony, growing in the remains of the trunk of the original tree

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.[8] The tree's 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.[9]

State park[edit]

The Maryland General Assembly purchased the tree and established Wye Oak State Park in 1939. At its creation, the park was a little over an acre in size, according to Wye Oak: The History of a Great Tree by Dickson J. Preston:

[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.[10]

The park's current 29 acres (12 ha) protect the nearby stream valley from development.[3] 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.


  1. ^ a b U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Wye Oak
  2. ^ "FY2013 DNR Owned Lands Acreage Report" (PDF). Maryland DNR. Retrieved November 26, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c "Wye Oak State Park". Maryland DNR. Retrieved November 26, 2013. 
  4. ^ Arthur S. Brisbane (21 June 1984). "MD's Wye Oak is still massive after 35 ton loss". The Washington Post. 
  5. ^ de Vise, Daniel (November 19, 2004). "Rebirth of the noble Wye Oak: Centuries-old tree, felled by storm, transformed into stately desk for governor". The Washington Post. p. B01. Retrieved November 26, 2013. 
  6. ^ Cizauskas, Thomas (February 24, 2011). "Hugh Sisson brings 471 year old beer to northern Virginia". Yours for Good Fermentables. Retrieved November 26, 2013. 
  7. ^ Mueller, Dana (June 5, 2015). "Wye Oak: The Life of a Tree". One Of A Kind Inc. 
  8. ^ "An American Champion: Maryland's Wye Oak". Special Collections. National Agricultural Library. June 12, 2002. Archived from the original on 2002-06-12. 
  9. ^  This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Department of Agriculture document "Urban Tree Risk Management: A Community Guide to Program Design and Implementation".
  10. ^ Preston, Dickson J. (1972). Wye Oak: The History of a Great Tree. Cambridge, Md.: Tidewater Publishers. p. 98. ISBN 0-87033-180-9. 

External links[edit]