HISTORY OF THIS PROJECT
History of This Project
When I was on the board of the Tanger Arboretum in 2004, I proposed that we "document some of the most spectacular trees in Lancaster County." Working with me on the resulting subcommittee were Christine Longenecker, Daina Savage and Jim Kendig. A newspaper article by Daina publicized the project (Intelligencer Journal, April 26, 2004) and led to about 50 nominations from the public, but the project was never completed. Fourteen years later I got the urge to try again, albeit with an expanded "vision," and here we are.
Ad Crable was kind enough to run an article on my plans (LNP, April 22, 2018) and a whole new round of nominations reached me. These two groups of nominations, plus those Lancaster County trees that are listed at the website for large trees in Pennsylvania (pabigtrees.com), plus my own idiosyncratic familiarity with local trees, have together been the primary sources for special trees thus far.
Lancaster County's special trees are separated into 10 categories (a single tree might fall in more than one category). These are:
(1) Size, in that the tree is one of the largest of its species either in Pennsylvania (a state champion perhaps) or in Lancaster County; or alternatively, that the tree is exceptionally small, excluding common dwarfs and container trees (e.g., see Gerow Miniature Gardens);
(2) Age, in that the tree is at least 150-200 years old, or at least old for its species if the species is generally short-lived;
(3) Form, in that the tree has an unusual or odd form, whether by happenstance or human intent (espalier, topiary, etc.);
(4) Rare, in that few members of the tree's species are known to be in the county;
(5) Beauty -- while every tree is beautiful in its own way, some trees or groups of trees have special stand-out attractiveness;
(6) Container, in that the tree is a good example of bonsai or is otherwise container-grown;
(7) History, in that the tree is specifically associated with human history or is commemorative of some person or event;
(8) Collection -- either an arboretum or a less formal collection of trees;
(9) Cemetery, in that the tree -- special when alive -- is now gone but not forgotten;
(10) Tree Sculpture, that is, a sculptured figure within a still standing tree snag or at least a significant length of tree trunk; or a sculpture, made of any material, of a tree itself (e.g., the North Museum's Norway Maple).
Each entry has a follow-up page with more information about the particular tree, its age, size, history, etc., and one or more photographs. The entry then finishes with an interesting fact about the tree's species ("This amazing species..."). But this is a fan site for trees; only positives are noted here. If you want to read about trees that are messy, that disrupt water pipes, that pose threats as invasive species....you'll have to look elsewhere.
Numerous tangential topics are touched upon here when special trees provide examples. These include pollarding (Little Leaf Linden), clonal colony (Oriental Plane), espalier (Apple), self-grafting (Hemlock), topiary (Arborvitae, False Cypress), modal fabric (European Beech), leaf-carving (Oriental Plane), coppicing (White Ash), genetic reversion (Dwarf Alberta Spruce), witch's broom (Hemlock), and galls (Hackberry, Cottonwood, and the Grande White Oak).
A modicum of balance was sought in the entries. I could have included nothing but White Oaks, Silver Maples, and Sycamores and still had a lengthy list because Lancaster County is blessed with a superabundance of special trees from these three species. Then too, a list that included nothing but notable specimens from Masonic Village, Tanger Arboretum, and Conestoga Gardens -- ignoring the rest of Lancaster County -- would still have been plenty long. While these three horticultural gems are amply represented here, special trees in all corners of the county have been included.
In any event, many more special trees remain to be described. I received more nominations than I could pursue by the time of this website's launching. I've not even had time to tap the greatest source of information about our local trees, the county's arborists. And hopefully new nominations will be received as more people become aware of this effort. In sum, the listings here will most definitely be expanded over time.
But this is a beginning. And like all beginnings, corrections will be needed along the way. I'm not an arborist, horticulturalist, or even much of a trained amateur. I love trees, I've gathered information, and I've done the best I can. But this website no doubt contains mistakes, and comments concerning them are most welcome.
Other counties in Pennsylvania or other states may have compiled tree lists in a way similar to here, but I'm not aware of any. As a means of becoming more familiar with the resources of one's locality, this effort is hopefully not a bad model that others could modify and follow. Certainly our immediate neighbors (Berks, Cecil, Chester, Dauphin, Lebanon and York Counties) have an abundance of special trees that could be surveyed in comparable fashion.
Finally, I've been repeatedly asked to identify "the very most special tree in Lancaster County." Most people would vote for Old Sycamore in Centerville but that's actually not my answer. The most special tree in Lancaster County is, in a very real sense, the tree living in your own backyard...
Cherish every tree!