We have been very patient for spring. Winter has been slow to recede. Snow keeps showing up in forecasts and on the ground. Night temperatures continue to drop below freezing. This has been good for maple sugaring; one long-time maple sugar-er told me that he can hardly remember a longer sugar season than this one. My son, on the other hand, has been ready for spring since Groundhog’s Day and wants it just to be warm already.
Well, Spring is coming. And I will trust that at the end of April, when Arbor Day comes around, it will actually feel that way. So in that light — or warmth — I want to announce the Sixth Annual Goshen Champion Tree Contest.
This is the contest where we look for the largest specimen of certain tree species in town. In the past we’ve crowned champion cottonwood, silver maple, sugar maple, Norway maple, sycamore, tulip, red bud, ash, American elm, and oak trees.
This year we’ll look for two more to add to this list. The first is Bur Oak. Several years ago when we searched for a champion oak tree we didn’t specify which kind of oak — red, swamp white, chinquapin, bur, etc. The largest oak nominated at that time happened to be a red oak, and it is a real monster. Bur oak is a different beast in many ways. It is one of the slower growing oaks, a patient and persistent tree. It grows in all kinds of soils and has decent tolerance for urban life, making it a good choice for a shade tree in Goshen. Unlike most young trees, bur oaks have dramatically furled and raised bark, which it retains through its whole life. In fact, its bark forms a deep cork layer around its living tissue, helping it to survive fires, including on the prairie where it is a pioneer species.
I know where several really big bur oaks are in town. There are one or two good size bur oaks in Shanklin woods. There are two on South Main Street, one standing by the road, the other standing next to a house. I don’t know which of these is the largest, and it’s quite possible that there are larger ones elsewhere. Someone needs to nominate these trees so that we can award a maple syrup prize.