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Topic: Things to Do

Our Ten Favorite New England Trees

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Like the forest itself, these New England trees are diverse—some are unique for their role in history, others for their jaw-dropping size, and others still for their simple beauty.

New England Trees

The Pinchot Sycamore

Foresters estimate that, give or take a few million, New England has over 26 billion trees. With so many, it’s easy to miss the trees for the forest. What follows are just some of New England’s most notable trees. Whether they played a significant role in history, are astoundingly huge, are eye-catchingly beautiful, or were simply planted by a famous hand, these New England trees are some of our favorites.

The Family Tree

The Pinchot sycamore is the largest tree in Connecticut: Ninety-three feet high, with an average branch spread of 138 feet, its trunk measures 25 feet, 8 inches in circumference. Families often link hands to circle the tree.

Where: Cross the steel bridge over the Farmington River on Connecticut Route 185 south of Simsbury Center. The tree stands in a small park.

The Survivor (no longer standing)

Well-known to Dartmouth College students, the Parkhurst elm is loved for its tenacity as well as its beauty. It’s a majestic tree, 94 feet tall, whose leaves turn yellow-gold in autumn. This elm survived the Hurricane of 1938, then Dutch elm disease. Twenty years ago, some of its roots were severed during a road project, but the elm continues to thrive.

Where: On North Main Street in Hanover, New Hampshire, in front of Parkhurst Hall.

New England’s Largest Turkey

With a trunk almost 17 feet in circumference, this is a magnificent specimen of the turkey oak (Quercus cerris), 64 feet high, New England’s largest. Native to Europe, it has wavy-edged leaves and large acorns with bristly cups. Some say it’s called a turkey oak because its leaves look like the fanned-out tail of a tom turkey.

Where: Bushnell Park, Hartford, Connecticut.

The Trees the Settlers Saw

Gifford Woods, a small, under-ten-acre stand of old-growth forest in a Vermont state park, gives visitors a glimpse of how the New England forest looked to the first settlers. Some trees rise more than 100 feet from the forest floor. Most of the sugar maples date from Revolutionary times, and there is also a 400-year-old hemlock. A state park and campground allows visitors to sleep within sight of these trees.

Where: Gifford Woods State Park, Sherburne, Vermont, 1/2 mile north of Route 4 on Route 100.

The Tree of Independence

This very large and beautiful horse chestnut was planted by one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, William Whipple, upon his return from Philadelphia in 1776.

Where: On the lawn of the Moffatt-Ladd House on Market Street, Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

“The Forest Primeval”

Along the Elwell Trail at Paradise Point Nature Center is a stand of giant hemlocks that began their lives in the 17th century, well before Longfellow wrote of “the murmuring pines and the hemlocks” in “Evangeline.”

Where: Paradise Point Nature Center, North Shore Road, East Hebron, New Hampshire. 603-744-3516.

The Endicott Pear

The oldest living fruit tree in the United States has blossomed and borne fruit for more than 300 years. In 1964 vandals cut off its branches, but the tree was saved by grafting.

Where: On Endicott Street, behind the Sylvania Plant in Danvers, Massachusetts. Take exit 24 off Route 128.

“Tree at my window, window tree …”

From 1900 to 1909 Robert Frost lived on a farm in Derry, New Hampshire. He once wrote, “I might say the core of all my writing was probably the first five years I had there.” His children may have played by this magnificent maple near the barn.

Where: Frost Farm, 2 miles south of Derry Circle on Route 28. 603-432-3091.

The Sculptor’s Honey Locust

This tree stands in front of the house where famed sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens lived. It was planted by Saint-Gaudens in 1886 and is the largest honey locust in New Hampshire.

Where: Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, Cornish. Take I-89 to exit 20, drive south on Route 12A. 603-675-2175.

The Castine Elms

Considered one of the finest stands of elms in New England, over 300 of these great trees grace the village of Castine, Maine. Townspeople have labored long and hard to help their trees withstand Dutch elm disease, and these elms are among Castine’s treasures.

Where: Especially notable along Main Street.

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