ANNAPOLIS – The remains of the stately Wye Oak, which witnessed more than four centuries of Maryland history before it toppled in a storm last summer, are beginning to go on sale – but interested customers should hurry, because one limited set of preserved leaves has already sold out.
Encased in precious metals, they are some of the last remnants of a venerable state treasure.
“The leaves are absolutely gorgeous, and I think they make perfect gifts for the holidays,” said Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman Heather Lynch, adding that this limited number of leaves was intentionally made available in time for such purchases.
Although the 400 wearable Wye Oak leaf pins made by the Rockville-based Nature’s Creations sold out last week, the first week they were offered, DNR made another set of commemorative leaves available Friday – gold-plated, copper and antique-finished.
Leaves from the ancient white oak, Maryland’s state tree, were carefully salvaged immediately after it was felled by a severe storm on June 6. The state then contracted with two companies to preserve them artistically – Nature’s Creations, and Kardia, a gold-plating business in Washington state.
The “electroplating” preservation of the leaves was one of more than 520 suggestions received by the state at the request of Gov. Parris Glendening after the tree’s demise.
Other suggested uses for the tree’s wood included furniture, sculptures, educational stumps, souvenirs – such as crab mallets – and even boats.
“This is the public’s tree,” said DNR spokeswoman Heather Lynch, “and we just wanted to make sure that the public was involved.”
Kardia’s leaves, available at the gift shop of the Tawes State Office Building in Annapolis, are decorations, not jewelry. Owner Shannon Miller said she produced a variety of types among the 400 or so leaves she was given.
“We made some of them thicker than others; some of them are more delicate,” she said. “They were all totally different; you could not get one leaf that’s the same (as others). They’re very unique.”
Like the leaf pins made by Nature’s Creations, Kardia’s leaves preserve the shape of each leaf and its pattern of veins.
Nature’s Creations Vice President Don Ray said each of his leaves – three- to-five-inches long and finished in a greenish patina – is “strong enough where you can’t bend it or break it.”
Expect more Wye Oak products in the future. The state meticulously collected the stems, twigs, branches and pieces of the trunk of the 460-year-old oak with the intention of finding the best uses to preserve not only the tree, but also its historic value to the state.
In a statement given the day after the storm, Glendening expressed his sorrow at the passing of the beloved tree.
“We are committed to preserving the Wye Oak, its majestic spirit, and its place in history,” he said. “By preserving the wood and leaves and using the buds for cloning, we will ensure that the stately Wye Oak will grace us with its presence for generations to come.”
First measured in 1909, the Wye Oak stood 96 feet tall and measured more than 31 feet around. The tree, named for the village of Wye Mills in Talbot County where it grew, had a crown that stretched nearly a third of an acre. It was purchased by the state from its last private owners and designated as the state tree in 1939. Over the years, the oak’s acorns were used to grow offspring at the state nursery in Preston, where at least 20 Wye Oak clones are being grown. Kardia’s ornamental leaves, priced between $26 and $40, went on sale in Annapolis Friday. Nature’s Creations offers customer information about future Wye Oak products at www.wye-oak.com. – 30 – CNS-11-1-02