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Check out this Champion Chestnut!

Native Plant Spotlight: Chestnut Oak (Quercus prinus)

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This Chesnut Oak in Battery Kemble Park is a champion for a reason! It is the largest individual tree of its species in the country. Yes, I said "individual." Each of these "trunks" is part of the same tree! 

This month we focus on one of Rock Creek Park’s largest, and most impressive, native plant species, the Chestnut Oak tree! The tree, also known as the Rock Oak because of its affinity to grow in rocky areas, is native to the eastern United States from Maine to Mississippi.

How to ID this tree:

The tree is easily identified by its thickly-ridge dark grey to brown bark. The leaves are egged shaped and feature a scalloped edge which is indicative of this species. Typically, these trees only grow to about 60-70 feet in height, but a very special Chestnut Oak tree resides in Rock Creek Park, that has grown much larger.

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The bark of the Chesnut Oak Tree, note the deep grooves and ridges. 
Photo credit John Maleri | RCC 


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A leaf from a Chesnut Oak has a scalloped edge. 
Photo credit John Maleri | RCC 


We are the Champions! 


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If you were a squirrel, you'd be home now. 
Photo credit: John Maleri | RCC 

Every year American Forests crowns Champion Trees.  These individual trees are the largest of their species and are contained in the Champion Tree Registry, a database that has been home to details on the largest tree species in the United States since 1940! Rock Creek Park only has one tree in this database and that is a spectacularly sized Chesnut Oak that is found in Battery Kemble Park on the western edge of Washington, DC.  The tree stands at a massive 105 feet in height and has a circumference of 276 inches (23 feet!), making it the largest tree of it's species in the country.  

The tree itself has 5 trunks coming from the same root system and has been part of the Champion Tree Database since 2013 where it shares the title of Champion with a similarly sized tree in Maryland (the Rock Creek Park tree is taller while the Maryland tree is fatter so they share the honor).

To see the tree, visit Battery Kemble Park in Northwest Washington, DC and head up the knoll to the part of the Park adjacent to Chain Bridge Rd.  There, look for the massive tree with 5 trunks seemingly stemming from one giant tree.

Written and photographed by John Maleri. 

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Tags: Native Species Species Spotlight

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