Professor seeks additional nominations for remarkable trees of Virginia project

BLACKSBURG, Va., Nov. 1, 2006 – Virginia Tech forestry professor and Extension specialist Jeffrey Kirwan and outdoor author/lecturer Nancy Ross Hugo will publish a book in 2008 about remarkable trees in Virginia that will commemorate Virginia’s first Arbor Day in 1908. They have been seeking nominations from citizens and to date have more than 480 nominations.

The author team said, “At this juncture, we are in need of more nominations for hickory trees and trees with special stories.” Citizens are encouraged to nominate trees by going to the remarkable trees website, writing to Remarkable Trees of Virginia, c/o Jeffrey Kirwan , Virginia Tech, Department of Forestry (0324), Blacksburg, VA 24061.

Kirwan explained, “We have been asking citizens to search their communities and natural areas for trees that are remarkable because of age, size, beauty, uniqueness, connection to the community, or historical and cultural significance. Needed now are nominations of hickory trees because hickories make up most Virginia forests and are very important to the state.”

Co-author Hugo added, “We also need more nominations for trees that have interesting stories associated with them or that are unique, such as a tree growing out of an abandoned silo, or a community tree that is associated with some special or memorable event. We would like to hear about trees that were also planted during the first Arbor Day in Virginia in 1908, as the book will be published during the state's 100th year Arbor Day anniversary. And it would also be nice to have a few more red maples.”

To date, white oak, which grows extraordinarily well in Virginia, tops the nomination list and accounts for 15 percent. Ninety-three of Virginia's 108 cities and counties are represented. Nominations need to be made by December 31 of this year. Hugo notes, "After 70 nominations for the white oak, the tallies for the most nominated species so far have been 23 for willow oak, 17 American sycamore, 16 American elm, 15 Southern magnolia, 11 live oak, 10 sugar maple, 9 Southern red oak, 8 flowering dogwood, 8 American beech, and 8 Eastern red cedar."

“The white oaks are gorgeous, and all the nominations prove what I've always thought,” noted Hugo, “that white oak is Virginia's finest tree! Not only are they long-lived but, particularly where they have room to spread out, they are beautiful. I'm so excited to see this tree getting its due. Because it has a reputation as being slow growing and getting so big, it is seldom planted, but it's one of the best, if not the best, legacy tree. Because we've had so many great white oaks nominated to the project, we've decided to add a whole new chapter to the book dedicated to Virginia's best native oaks.”

The effort will culminate with a keepsake book highlighting Virginia’s top 100 trees. The 176-page book will include full-color photographs taken by internationally-known photographer Robert Llewellyn from Albemarle, Va. Each person who nominates a tree to the Remarkable Trees of Virginia Project will have his or her name listed on the project website and in the culminating book.

Trees Virginia, a 501 (c) (3) organization dedicated to enhancing quality of life through stewardship of Virginia’s urban and community forests and trees, serves as the project’s coordinating sponsor. Additional support is provided by Bartlett Tree Experts, the Peck Foundation, the Virginia Forestry Educational Foundation, and the Virginia Tech Department of Forestry. Individuals can also contribute to the project; all gifts to Trees Virginia are tax deductible.

Kirwan and Hugo, who have worked together previously to develop and maintain Virginia’s big tree register program, are inviting children, adults, professional tree experts, and amateur tree lovers to participate in the project by nominating remarkable trees from their communities. The project organizers are also looking for “tree places,”– parks, arboreta, and gardens where the public can visit remarkable trees.

Each nomination should include a photograph of the tree, the common and/or botanical name, where it grows, nominator contact information, name and address of the owner of the property on which the tree grows, and an explanation of why the tree should be recognized as one of the following: big tree, beautiful tree, historic tree, old tree, community tree, unique tree, or other (such as a tree with a special story).

Kirwan and Hugo’s project is an offshoot of the 2006 National Register of Big Trees, prepared by American Forests. That list, published continuously since 1940, documents the biggest of 822 species of trees. Kirwan has been maintaining Virginia’s official tree register (Virginia Big Tree Program), which has provided 43 national champion trees and puts Virginia fifth in the nation for having the most big trees by species. The Virginia Forestry Association and the state’s Urban Forestry Council, Trees Virginia, provide support for Kirwan to keep the big tree register.

The College of Natural Resources at Virginia Tech consistently ranks among the top five programs of its kind in the nation. Faculty members stress both the technical and human elements of natural resources and instill in students a sense of stewardship and land-use ethics. As a land-grant university, Virginia Tech serves the Commonwealth of Virginia in teaching, research, and extension.