Champion Water Oak Provides Wildlife Habitat in Arlington

Steve Nagy from Davey Tree Expert Company stretches the tape measure at DBH (diameter at breast height) around the Water Oak tree at 5920 35th Street N. in Arlington. It measures 54 inches DBH (diameter at breast height) and is estimated to be 175-210 years old. In America DBH is typically measured at 4.5 feet above ground. The tree’s crown spread is 103 feet.

This tree measures as the Arlington County champion with a score of 311, exceeding the score of the current County champion at 282. A tree’s score is determined by adding tree circumference in inches with the tree height in feet and the average crown spread in feet.

Patricia Teutsch and John Malerich own the property where the tree is located and where they have lived for 28 years. She says their yard has been a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat for several years and they cultivate it to attract bees, their pileated woodpeckers, blue jays and nuthatches and the chipmunks, raccoons and foxes that inhabit the backyard. “The other day we had three deer lying in our Joe Pye weed for most of the afternoon.”

Recently, Teutsch said they had come to realize this might be a specimen tree, so she contacted a certified arborist in the area to evaluate it. She says they started to realize “the tree has been such a valuable resource to our home, has saved us thousands in utility bills, provides shelter for all kinds of wildlife and brings a feeling of being established within the neighborhood.”

Teutsch points out they live in a neighborhood that has seen destruction of a number of specimen trees including the razing of a state champion dawn redwood last year just a few blocks away despite months of citizen protests, petitions and county board appeals. “There is pressure from developers, and we know that Arlington provides no protection against developers clear-cutting the lots they obtain with a $2,500 fine a mere cost of doing business.” She added, “The County just rubber stamps developer plans and then laments the loss of tree cover.”

Teutsch has nominated this tree as County Tree Champion and intends to nominate it as a Notable Tree next year, recommending a plaque. She says she calls it her George Washington tree “because it is about that old.”

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