Nature Alert: The history behind the white oak trees of Riderwood’s campus

by Becky Hedin
Resident Writer

Years ago, when driving from Silver Spring to Atlantic beaches, a favorite stop was the village of Wye Mills to admire Maryland’s honorary state tree, the Wye Oak, the largest white oak tree in the nation. It was estimated to have sprouted in the 1500s.

Nature alert 2
Photo by Alan Hedin of the original Wye Oak tree in 1971

In June 2002, that magnificent tree was destroyed in a tremendous thunderstorm. Fortunately, in previous years, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources collected acorns from the tree and planted them. The saplings were sold and planted throughout the United States.

When Riderwood’s pub was named for the Wye Oak in March 2005, residents Arnold and Mildred Hauser encouraged the community to purchase and plant ten Wye Oak saplings. The Wildlife Habitat Management Project and the Riderwood Grounds Department coordinated the temporary planting in a protected area that later became the Riderwood dog park.

After maturing for several years, the surviving trees were moved to an area behind the resident gardens and in front of the Gracefield Road Gatehouse. Three white oak trees, labeled with purple yarn and wooden stakes, are behind the gardens entangled in blackberry vines. There are also three white oak trees between the gatehouse and the gazebo pond, which are probably the descendants of the Wye Oak. Perhaps a new project would be to remove the vines and create markers so future residents will know that they have a bit of history close by.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to correct errors in the printed version of The Reporter.

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