NORWAY — Oxford County has a treasure trove of record-breaking large trees, including a 143-foot eastern white pine in the town's historic Ordway Grove.
Several Ordway Grove trees were nominated as part of an annual contest by the Oxford County Soil and Water Conservation District held to find the largest trees in Oxford County.
A total of 18 tree species were nominated during the summer contest, which had assistance from Maine State Forester Merle Ring. Four, including a 95-foot American chestnut tree in Hebron, have been confirmed state champions. The other three are an 80-foot white ash in Waterford, an 81½-foot white swamp oak in Paris and an 88-foot American sycamore tree in Waterford.
Five are being checked against other big trees across the state for state champion designation. They are:
* A 95-foot northern red oak in Lovell.
* A 65-foot striped maple in Byron.
* A 112½-foot eastern hemlock in Norway.
* A 65.66-foot butternut in Buckfield.
* A 79-foot American basswood in Waterford.
“The Ordway Grove has been a big part of this contest, especially for those who nominated trees within the forest,” Jeannie Federico of the Oxford County Soil and Water Conservation District said.
The grove is on Pleasant Street and was first preserved by Samuel Ames, who settled in Norway in 1789. In 1864, John Ordway purchased it. Eventually, after lumbermen threatened the grove, a new owner deeded it to the Twin Town Nature Club in 1931, as long as it was kept open to the public.
Ordway Grove is featured in The Sierra Club Guide to the Ancient Forests of the Northeast as the site of the greatest white pines in Maine. Some of the 20 to 30 great pines are believed to be 200 to 350 years old.
Other species in the grove include hemlock, beech, yellow birch, sugar maple, red maple, striped maple and red oak.
Federico said there were three nominations for the eastern white pine in the grove and it was a county winner for size.
The three nominations came from Norway police Chief Rob Federico, who became familiar with the trees as he patrolled the grove to discourage party-goers; an Otisfield resident who credited his knowledge of the area to Orrel Linnell; and Stacey Hanscom's biology class at the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris.
Federico said the trees were measured by the trunk circumference, vertical height and average crown spread. The total points were calculated by adding the circumference in inches, the height in feet and one-quarter of the crown spread in feet.
The 95-foot American chestnut in Hebron is now also considered the tallest in the state, Alan Markert, a board member of Maine Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation, said Wednesday.
Markert went to the Hebron site on Nov. 16 to measure the tree after hearing about the initial find by Federico and Oxford County Soil and Water Conservation Commissioner project manager Michele Windsor.
He said despite a lot of discussion between chapters of the American Elm Foundation across the country, to date no one has come up with a taller American chestnut tree.
Federico said the winning nominees of the "big trees" were recently notified and received a T-shirt, a copy of the 2009-2010 Maine Register of Big Trees and “Forest Trees of Maine, Centennial Edition 1908-2008.” The owners also were given certificates verifying they have the largest tree in that species in Oxford County.
The state winners are sent to the nationals for comparison, she said.
Federico said she is hoping to speak to students, groups and organizations about the county's "big trees."