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White oak tree gets recognition

November 08, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

KEEDYSVILLE - There were many things that attracted Irene and Alex Traska to their Keedysville home 10 years ago, not the least of which were the majestic oak trees around the house.

One of those - a white oak right on the north side of the house - recently was recognized by the Washington County Forestry Board as the largest of that species in the county.

The tree measures 16 feet, 1 inch in circumference and is 95 feet high, according to the board.

"It also has an average crown spread of 80 feet," said Irene Traska, who noted that spread was a lot wider before an early-winter storm a few years ago broke off a lot of smaller branches.

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The winning white oak, though, looks very healthy, she said. The small, round leaves have turned a brownish red with the coming of the autumn season.

In the summer, the tree shades the entire house and most of the front yard.

Irene Traska and her husband lived in Ellicott City, Md., before relocating to Keedysville. Alex Traska was a fruit chemist and Irene Traska recently retired as a chemistry teacher at North Hagerstown High School.

"It's nice to be the keeper of these trees," Irene Traska said.

The Traskas have two sons and two grandchildren.

In addition to raising the impressive tree, the Traskas have implemented a variety of management practices to support plantings and wildlife on their property.

Now that she has joined her husband in the ranks of the retired, Irene Traska said she has more time to spend gardening, which is one of her great joys.

"Gardening is a lot of work but I really enjoy it," she said.

The farm where the Traskas live encompasses 54 acres and includes a wetland area behind the house.

The contest, conducted annually by the Washington County Forestry Board, seeks to identify and recognize the largest tree of a given species in Washington County.

The 2005 competition for the largest white oak tree will result in a recognition plaque to be awarded by the forestry board during the week of Nov. 14.

Previously, Joyes Bowman's black walnut tree in Smithsburg was chosen as a champion for 2004 by the Washington County Forest Conservancy Board.

Last June, the board sponsored a contest to find the largest black walnut tree in Washington County, Board Chairman John Clatterbaugh said. Bowman's tree is believed to be the largest.

In 1984, the black walnut tree was named the official tree of Washington County, Clatterbaugh said. The largest reported black walnut tree in Maryland is in Anne Arundel County, he said.

That tree is more than 21 feet in circumference, 92 feet high and has a crown spread of 102 feet, he said.

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