Virginia Tech forestry professor and extension specialist Jeffrey Kirwan and outdoor author/lecturer Nancy Ross Hugo are on a two-year search to find Virginia’s special trees. “We’re asking citizens to search their communities and natural areas for trees that are remarkable because of age, size, beauty, uniqueness, connection to the community, or historical and cultural significance,” Kirwan said. “We’re searching for trees that have unusual forms or interesting stories associated with them.”

The effort will culminate with a keepsake book highlighting Virginia’s top 100 trees. The 176-page book, to be published in 2008, will include full-color photographs taken by internationally-known photographer Robert Llewellyn from Albemarle, Va. Everyone who nominates a tree to the Remarkable Trees of Virginia Project will have his or her name listed in the book and on the project website.

Trees Virginia, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to enhancing quality of life through stewardship of Virginia’s urban and community forests and trees, serves as the project’s coordinating sponsor. Additional support is provided by Bartlett Tree Experts, the Virginia Forestry Educational Foundation, and the Virginia Tech Department of Forestry. Individuals can also contribute to the project; all gifts to Trees Virginia are tax deductible.

Kirwan and Hugo, who have worked together previously to develop and maintain Virginia’s big tree register program, are inviting children, adults, professional tree experts and amateur tree lovers to participate in the project by nominating remarkable trees from their communities. The project organizers are also looking for “tree places,” – parks, arboreta, and gardens where the public can visit remarkable trees.

“We’ll be contacting schools, 4-H clubs, and scouting groups throughout the state to try and get youth involved with the project,” Kirwan said. Hugo added that, “the project encourages children to connect not just to trees in general but to specific trees. We want them to look carefully at the trees in their neighborhoods, so that they’ll begin to feel connected to specific trees and their habitats, not just to anonymous nature.”

Those interested can make tree or “tree place” nominations through mail or the Remarkable Tree website. Each nomination should include a photograph of the tree, the common and/or botanical name, where it grows, nominator contact information, name and address of the owner of the property on which the tree grows, and an explanation of why the tree should be recognized as one of the following: big tree, beautiful tree, historic tree, old tree, community tree, unique tree, or other (such as a tree with a special story).

Kirwan and Hugo’s project is offshoot of the 2006 National Register of Big Trees, prepared by American Forests. That list, published continuously since 1940, documents the biggest of 822 species of trees. Kirwan has been maintaining Virginia’s official tree register (Virginia Big Tree Program), which has provided 43 national champion trees and puts Virginia fifth in the nation for having the most big trees by species. The Virginia Forestry Association and the state’s Urban Forestry Council, Trees Virginia, provide support for Kirwan to keep the big tree register.

Kirwan will discuss the Remarkable Trees of Virginia Project on VFH Radio show, “With Good Reason,” the week of March 4-10. For local airtimes, streaming audio, and podcasts of the show, interested persons can visit the With Good Reason website.

For more information or to learn more about sponsorship, interested persons can visit the project website; write to Remarkable Trees of Virginia, c/o Dr. Jeffrey Kirwan, Virginia Tech, Department of Forestry (0324), Blacksburg, VA 24061; or email Jeffrey Kirwan.

The College of Natural Resources at Virginia Tech consistently ranks among the top five programs of its kind in the nation. Faculty members stress both the technical and human elements of natural resources and instill in students a sense of stewardship and land-use ethics. As a land-grant university, Virginia Tech serves the Commonwealth of Virginia in teaching, research, and Extension.

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