Contest seeks area’s top poplar

Jefferson has won three of the last four ‘big tree’ competitions

MARTINSBURG — The hunt is on for the Eastern Panhandle’s largest tulip poplar tree, and the prize for finding it is $500.

[cleeng_content id="259441494" description="Read it now!" price="0.49" t="article"]For each of the last five years, the Eastern Panhandle Conservation District has helped conduct a “big tree” contest, according to administrative officer Sherry Duncan. This year’s contest will mark the fifth for Delegate John Overington, R-Berkeley, who came up with it and puts up the money for the reward.

“Trees have a special meaning for me, and I am glad this contest is becoming an annual event,” Overington said in a news release.

Nominations can be phoned in to the district through Aug. 1.

Besides planting thousands of trees himself on his farm and serving on the state Legislature’s Forest Management Review Commission, Overington credits his interest in trees to a family history with deep roots in forestry. His grandfather was Maryland’s first state forester and was appointed by President Franklin Roosevelt to help determine whether forestland could be best managed through a state or federal system.

The contest – which in previous years has focused on different species of trees – started with the goal of getting people to learn to identify different types of trees, according to Duncan, and hopefully to getting out to discover more about nature.

Chesapeake Bay Watershed Forester Herb Peddicord, who assists with confirming the winners, said the contest has had additional benefits in that it has helped the West Virginia Big Tree Program add trees to its roster.

Because the Eastern Panhandle was settled so early, many older homes and farms still feature old, large trees, he said.

“Our area is well represented on that list,” Peddicord said.

Previous winners of the contest are Mike Bochinski, of Martinsburg, with the largest pine tree last year, Kaitlyn Price, who in 2010 found the area’s largest oak tree, a Chinkapin oak tree that was 20 feet in circumference, and Dan DeSarno, who found the largest tree in 2009, a sycamore near Ranson.

In 2011, Diana Suttenfield found a maple tree growing on her then-property outside Shepherdstown, the historic Falling Spring, that turned out to be the largest sugar maple tree in the state.

The contest is helping the Division of Forestry to officially discover more.

“It’s good for the Division of Forestry to be involved in this too – it helps us out,” Peddicord said.

A website for the West Virginia Big Tree Program describes the many important benefits of trees: “Trees of all shapes and sizes are essential to a healthy environment. Besides helping to purify air and water, trees are the biggest weapon against soil erosion. Trees fight air pollution by absorbing sulfur dioxide and help to cool the earth by absorbing carbon dioxide. They cool homes in the summer by providing shade and protect property year-round from wind damage. Trees also provide homes for birds, small animals and insects. Humans and wildlife enjoy fruits and nuts that many trees produce.”

This year, tulip poplars were selected as the focus of the contest because this region is known to have some larger ones.

“This is a good area for tulip poplars to be growing,” Peddicord said.

A quick web search will help people to be able to identify a tulip poplar tree by its leaves, he said.

Those who have a tree to nominate can call the Eastern Panhandle Conservation District. Information required includes the measurement of the tree trunk circumference at 4 feet 5 inches up from the ground. Callers are asked to let the owner where the tree is located know about their intentions to enter the contest.

The Division of Forestry will verify the trees using the criteria of the West Virginia Big Tree Program. Points will be determined based on the tree’s circumference, total height and crown spread.

The winner will be recognized at the Eastern Pandhandle Conservation District’s fall banquet.

To call in an entry, contact the EPCD at 263-4376.[/cleeng_content]



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