Measuring the 8 greatest White Oaks of New Jersey

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#1)  Measuring the 8 greatest White Oaks of New Jersey

Postby John Harvey » Wed Dec 31, 2014 6:38 pm

There are 8, what I consider to be great, white oaks (Quercus alba), remaining in New Jersey. 50 or so years ago there were many, many more. My research indicates as many as 25. Over the last half century almost all were either cut, fell in storms, or succumbed to age. Trees like the 26' circumference Tatum Oak in Mantua, the historic Mercer Oak, an old oak that stood for centuries at the meeting house in Mt Laurel, and many others, are now just grainy black and white images. Recently I've had the opportunity to visit, measure, and photograph all of the remaining trees. All of them except one that is. They are spread out across the state. The southern most oak is just a couple miles from Delaware and the northernmost a half hour drive from the center of the Big Apple. 6 of these trees are named and several are the official logo or symbol of the township they are found in. Half of them, I believe, are on borrowed time. As far as I can tell all of these trees are preserved and protected although one, the Clement Oak, was almost felled for a super Wal-Mart several years ago. Local outrage prompted the corporation to alter their blueprints and save the tree.

Why these trees? There are a couple other large white oaks in the state approaching 20' in circumference, some with spreads over 120' as well, and  Q alba over 130' tall. Why not expand the list? Although the term “great” is rather subjective, the reasons I limit it to these 8 trees are simple ones. They are the total package. Some are the focus of legends from the 1700s and fine paintings from the 1800s. Some are said to be former gathering places for Native Americans before Europeans arrived. I believe all are several hundred years old. A couple of them, although impossible to say with absolute certainty, are believed to be over 500 years old and mentioned in surveys from the late 1600s when they were first marked as notable. Each tree has a girth of over 20' at breast height.

This list is based only on the Quercus alba of this size that I am aware of. There is bound to be another great one hiding out there somewhere but here are the great 8, aka my favorites. Below are my measurements followed by a brief description.

           CBH x Height x Ave Branch Spread   (Sine method, Nikon 440/Sunnto, tape wrap)

The Collingswood Tree :   20'6” x 82' x 130'      361 AF points   Condition: Excellent

The Basking Ridge Oak:   20'6” x 90' x 138'      371 AF points    Condition: Excellent

The Clement Oak:             20'9” x 90' x 78'         359 AF points   Condition: Fair

The Salem Oak:                 22'4” x 85' x 98'         378 AF points   Condition: Good/Fair

The Keeler Oak:                 22'6” x 85' x 120'      385 AF points   Condition: Good

The State Champ:               24'5” x 100' x 96'      417 AF points   Condition: Fair

The Warren Kinney Oak:    25'0” x 80' x 124'      411 AF points   Condition: Very Good

The Brooklake Oak:                   unknown, private property          Condition: unknown


The Collingswood Oak       39°54'53.58"N   75° 5'8.25"W

This tree is located on rt 30 in front of the Scottish Wright Theater. It is one of the healthier trees on the list and has perhaps the largest branch of any which runs almost 75' along the ground and buries itself before emerging upright again. It was dedicated by one George Bushnell in 1966 so I suppose we could call it the Bushnell Oak as well.
               
                       
White Oak Collingswood 10 30 14 (8).JPG
                       
Collingswood Oak
               
               


The Basking Ridge Oak       40°42'24.38"N   74°32'56.51"W

This healthy tree may be the most beautiful of all. It has by far the largest average spread at 138' and 158' at its widest. Its stretches itself out over an old cemetery and barely contains itself inside the stone walls that surround it. It is located at the Presbyterian Church in Basking Ridge's downtown.
               
                       
Basking Ridge Oak 20ft6in.JPG
                       
Basking ridge Oak
               
               


The Clement Oak        39°50'41.63"N   75° 5'26.18"W

This tree lost its largest and lowest branches long ago which may have touched ground. A small forest has grown up behind it and it has taken on some characteristics of a forest grown, instead of an open grown oak. It was selected as the landing point for the first hot air balloon ride in the United States which also coincidentally was the first “air mail” delivery as the passenger possessed a letter from George Washington to the local farmers. Now behind a super Walmart.
               
                       
co3.jpg
                       
Clement Oak
               
               


The Salem Oak           39°34'23.28"N  75°28'13.62"W

This tree is said to have been a large tree when the church it sits next to was built in 1675. John Fenwick made a deal with the local Indians under its shade to acquire land, a good portion of southern New Jersey, in the same year. In 1995 Bill Clinton recognized one historic tree from each state as a national heritage tree eligible for federal funding. This was the tree recognized in New Jersey. Its better days are behind it and its two largest limbs are long gone.
               
                       
Salem Oak 6.jpg
                       
Salem Oak
               
               


The Keeler Oak           40° 4'13.30"N   74°44'10.78"W

This tree was present during a skirmish during the Revolutionary War. Its possible that British deserters were even hung from its branches as several are said to have been executed here. The tree then sat for many years on Petticoat Bridge Rd in Mansfield Twp. on a private farm. The land has since been developed but the tree was spared for obvious reasons and is now the symbol of the township.
               
                       
Keeler Oak Main.jpg
                       
Keeler Oak
               
               


The recognized State Champion       40° 6'55.79"N   74°30'59.72"W

Sitting up on a hillside along county road 539, this tree reminds me of the Clement Oak in that it has lost its largest and lowest limbs and is surrounded by other trees. It is the tallest of the trees on this list and may have always had trees flanking it to some extent as it has the most forest grown characteristics. Its condition is worsening and seems to be losing branches frequently now.
               
                       
White Oak NJ Champ 24ft5in.jpg
                       
State Champ
               
               


The Warren Kinney Oak                   40°44'4.44"N   74°30'35.98"W

With the largest girth of any oak in New Jersey that I have measured, this tree is close to being and I feel will be the state champ at some point in the future. It is named after a local who helped preserve the swamp land close by.
               
                       
Warren Kinney Oak Basking Ridge 25ft0in.JPG
                       
Kinney Oak
               
               


Brooklake Country Club Oak            approx  40°46'0.46"N   74°22'47.97"W

I have not personally seen this tree yet and only have one photograph but have been made aware that it exceeds 20 feet in girth and has an impressive spread. I plan to gain permission to visit this spring.
John D Harvey (JohnnyDJersey)

East Coast and West Coast Big Tree Hunter

"If you look closely at a tree you'll notice it's knots and dead branches, just like our bodies. What we learn is that beauty and imperfection go together wonderfully." - Matt Fox

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#2)  Re: Measuring the 8 greatest White Oaks of New Jersey

Postby Rand » Wed Dec 31, 2014 10:10 pm

Wow.  Those are really impressive.
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#3)  Re: Measuring the 8 greatest White Oaks of New Jersey

Postby Will Blozan » Wed Dec 31, 2014 11:46 pm

Sweet post! Is that 158' spread unsupported?

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#4)  Re: Measuring the 8 greatest White Oaks of New Jersey

Postby tclikesbigtrees » Thu Jan 01, 2015 12:21 am

Wow, you finally got to the Basking Ridge Presbyterian Oak. As I have said before, that is my favorite oak in NJ. The state champion, the Warren Kinney and the Brooklake I have not seen. The Warren Kinney looks like one that I would really want to see.

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#5)  Re: Measuring the 8 greatest White Oaks of New Jersey

Postby John Harvey » Thu Jan 01, 2015 8:12 am

Will,
There are several props/cables on the larger branches of the Basking Ridge Oak. From what I can tell though its never lost a sizeable branch. Its the only tree with such cables although I've seen them many times in PA on the branches of large sycamores.

Tom,
The BR Oak certainly is the most attractive of the oaks here. The Warren Kinney is just a couple miles from the Basking Ridge Oak in the same town.
John D Harvey (JohnnyDJersey)

East Coast and West Coast Big Tree Hunter

"If you look closely at a tree you'll notice it's knots and dead branches, just like our bodies. What we learn is that beauty and imperfection go together wonderfully." - Matt Fox

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#6)  Re: Measuring the 8 greatest White Oaks of New Jersey

Postby Ranger Dan » Thu Jan 01, 2015 10:23 am

Enjoyed this report very much. I haven't seen a single oak in my home state of Virginia that can hold a candle to any one of these. I hope you'll share more images of the magnificent white oaks of your region.
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#7)  Re: Measuring the 8 greatest White Oaks of New Jersey

Postby sradivoy » Thu Jan 01, 2015 12:45 pm

I like the cultural dimension you give to these trees through the various stories. There's a strong sense of community  with these trees  that seems to tie  the historical past, present, and future  into an elaborate knot. The symbiotic relationship between trees and humans goes way back and is quite profound. As former marsupials we literally dropped from the trees like fruit.
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#8)  Re: Measuring the 8 greatest White Oaks of New Jersey

Postby tomhoward » Thu Jan 01, 2015 3:30 pm

Those White Oaks are awesome! I don't know of any quite that big here in central NY.

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#9)  Re: Measuring the 8 greatest White Oaks of New Jersey

Postby Matt Markworth » Thu Jan 01, 2015 7:49 pm

John,

All I can say is Congratulations. I really like how you formatted the information and I think this is the kind of presentation that can connect with everyone from the very novice tree appreciator to the very experienced tree enthusiast.

Here's a white oak in Ohio recently posted on the TCI site that I want to see. It has an amazing crown like many of the NJ trees. http://treeclimbing.com/index.php/forum/climb-reports-sharing/136415-600-year-old-white-oak

Matt

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#10)  Re: Measuring the 8 greatest White Oaks of New Jersey

Postby Rand » Thu Jan 01, 2015 8:17 pm

You know.  I've rode my bike through Logan several times over the years, never knowing it was there.    I kind of gnashed my teeth when I finally found out, because it's only a few blocks over from where I passed through.

I wouldn't hazard it's age, but the gnarliness of the crown and the shear stumpy mass of the trunk makes me think it's very old for a white oak in Ohio.

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