The county is looking for a few good trees.
A few champion trees, to be exact.
The county Department of Public Works, Watershed Department and Prince William Virginia Cooperative Extension kicked off a joint effort yesterday to update the county’s champion tree registry, a listing of the largest trees of each species in the area.
The kickoff was held at K. Hovnanian’s Four Seasons at Historic Virginia, the site of the county’s current champion White Oak tree.
The champion status of the Four Seasons Liberty Oak was reconfirmed yesterday with measurements taken by master gardeners from the Virginia Cooperative Extension.
Gardeners estimated the tree stands at 107 feet, about the size of a ten story building, and boasts a circumference of 192 and an average crown spread of 100 inches, master gardener volunteer Sara Howell said.
Using these measurements, gardeners calculate a point value for each nominated tree.
The Liberty White Oak’s point value is 334.5, Howell said, making it the reigning champion white oak in the county.
The tree, which is estimated to be more than 200 years old, was identified and preserved by developers of K. Hovnanian who made efforts to ensure and protect the tree’s health, John Snyder, land planner for K. Hovnanian’s Four Seasons at Historic Virginia, a housing community for people over 55 located on Va. 234.
“There’s more to saving a tree than just not cutting it down,” Flanagan said. “Giving the tree enough room to grow is the most important factor.”
A champion tree registry for the county was first compiled in 1990 by a regional forester for the Virginia Department of Forestry, who solicited more than 120 nominations for the registry, Flanagan said.
When that forester moved out of the area, the registry was left untouched until now.
Master Gardener volunteers will now revisit each of the trees listed in the original registry, including 10 other white oak trees, to remeasure them and ensure that they are still there.
Some of the trees may have been lost to thunderstorms or other disasters since the original list was made, Flanagan said.
People in the community are encouraged to nominate other white oak trees that could challenge the tree.
“We want to pose a challenge to the community to find bigger white oaks,” said Deb Oliver, spokesperson for the Department of Public Works.
Although champion white oak trees are often the biggest and most noticeable champions, they aren’t the only species of tree the county hopes to identify.
An estimated 130 species of trees can be found in Prince William County, and the Department of Public works hopes to identify a champion tree from each species, especially from the more than 70 species left off the original list.
Among the trees not included in the original list is the flowering dogwood tree, a tree found throughout the county and state.
A complete list of trees missing from the current list can be found on the Department of Public Works web site.
Citizens who think they may have spotted the champion tree of any species are encouraged to visit the web site at http://www.pwcgov.org/pworks/env_services/Bigtree.htm to download a nomination form and to learn methods for measuring the tree, Oliver said.
The Department of Public Works hopes to complete the update of the champion tree registry by Arbor Day, 2004.
Once completed, the registry will be available for viewing by the public so that land planners and other interested citizens can learn the location of champion trees throughout the area, Flanagan said.