Travilah Residents Want Historic White Oak to Be Next State Tree
The Travilah Oak is worthy to be the Maryland State Tree, some Travilah residents argued.
Travilah is a small community, but its heart is as large as a great white oak. In fact, some residents would like to see their favorite white oak, located in the Potomac Oaks Shopping Center, become the State Tree of Maryland.
The Travilah White Oak, estimated to be more than 250 years old, stands 98 feet high with its crown spreading about 100 feet. The tree's circumference is 17 feet 6 inches, according to documents at the Montgomery County Historical Society.
While the tree at Travilah is impressive, it is not the oldest nor largest white oak in Maryland — or even in Montgomery County.
Big Tree Champions of Maryland volunteer John Bennett said the current white oak champion resides in Cecil County and the Montgomery County champion is the Linden Oak in North Bethesda. For a complete list of the champion tress in Maryland, click here.
Bennett said a few years ago the residents of Montgomery County were trying to designate the regionally famous Flora's Oak as the Maryland State Tree. However, a windstorm in June 2008 killed the tree. Bennett said even though the Department of Natural Resources still recognizes the champion trees of the state, there has not been much talk about declaring any tree the state tree since Flora's Oak fell.
Montgomery County Forestry volunteer Joe Howard said the champion tree status is based on size. He said the Travilah Oak may not be on the list of largest white oaks in the state, but it is in the Forestry database.
Guy Semmes, a Travilah resident and manager of Hopkins and Porter — an architecture and remodeling firm that owns the shopping center, said even though their white oak is not the largest, it is the healthiest and would be a good candidate for the Maryland State Tree.
The community of Travilah, named after their first postmaster Travilah Cleggett, is an area rich with history — going back to the war of 1812. Now one of their favorite landmarks has gained a little history of its own.
According to Montgomery County Historical Society archives, the tree first received local attention in 1989 when it was in danger of being cut down because of development. The shopping center beside the tree changed its name from Glenvilah Shopping Center to Potomac Oaks to honor the tree and residents began to look into ordinances to protect the white oak.
In 1997, the Friends of the Travilah Oak held a ceremony to celebrate the success of their rescue project. The group placed a fence around the tree to protect it from vehicles, as well as a marker to help ensure the tree's status as a local landmark. Pipes were also placed on the tree, which serve as lightning protection.
In 2000, the community held its first Travilah Oak Celebration, which has become an annual event. The 2010 celebration, normally scheduled in autumn, was postponed this year until maybe next spring, Semmes said.
While the Travilah white oak may only be one of many in the State of Maryland, it holds a special place in the heart of one community.
"Everybody has adopted this tree, Semmes said. "There are a lot of people keeping an eye on it."