The largest willow oak in North America, and some say the world, lost one of its biggest limbs during Friday evening’s strong winds.
The towering tree, over 100 feet tall, belongs to Ralph and Lit Dodd. The road on which it sits in Eastville, Willow Oak Road, is named for the tree.
A strong front moved through at approximately 7:30 Friday evening, but the limb didn’t fall until after 9:00 PM. Neighbors reported feeling their houses shake as it came crashing down.
A large crew helped all day Saturday cleaning up. Only the largest chunk of the limb remains.
The loss of the limb could jeopardize its status as the continent’s largest. Champion trees are measured annually by height, trunk circumference and the average crown spread.
According to American Forests, the tree is 105 feet tall, has a trunk circumference of 27 feet and a crown spread of 137 feet.
While it is not known for sure, the tree is approximated to be more than 200 years old. The only way to find out definitively is to drill into the trunk, something the Dodds have opted against.
First measured for champion status by Jack Wilkins in 2004, the tree was neck and neck with another large willow oak in Chesapeake. When the two were measured in 2013, the Eastville tree was larger, and declared the national champion. A storm in 2015 similarly brought down the Chesapeake trees’ massive limbs.
The Dodds plan on bringing an arborist in to assess the damage and recommend what should be done.