Archived Story

Champion tree in Maplesville falls

Published 5:02pm Friday, February 3, 2012

Maplesville lost a “champion” of sorts last week.

The tornado that tore through the town Jan. 23 was too much for the historic Bitternut Hickory tree in Ovid Merchant’s backyard.

The old tree, which was named the Alabama Champion tree of its species by the Alabama Forestry Commission in 2008, was 100 feet tall with a circumference (distance around the trunk) of 42 inches and a 66-foot canopy.

A Champion Tree is considered the largest tree of its species and is given a permanent marker at its base.

“To me, it’s just special,” said Doris Smitherman, Merchant’s sister. “Several people have asked for slabs of it to make something out of it, so we’re sharing it with them.”

The hickory was estimated to be about 100 years old and stood next to a house reportedly built by Noah Foshee in the late 1800s.

Merchant, a native of Randolph, bought the property about five years ago.

This Bitternut Hickory tree in Maplesville, recognized as the largest tree of its kind in Alabama, fell during Jan. 23's severe weather.

“The house had so much history, and we’ve tried to keep the history with the house,” Smitherman said.

The hickory is so thick that one saw was not long enough to cut all the way through.

“People who are able to cut it now are having to cut it from both sides,” she said. “There were a lot of bees in some of the hollow places in the higher limbs. Those bees had been there for a long time.”

The remnants of the old tree are now in Merchant’s pasture in Randolph, waiting to be put to use in new ways.

“We’ve talked to several people who worked with wood, and they’re going to see if they can make something out of it, like bowls and rolling pins,” Smitherman said. “I’m sure some of the limbs are plenty big enough for rolling pins.”

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  • Rickey

    Thanks for thinking of me fairygodmother. All is, indeed well here. I stay busy these days trying to teach our Spanish-speaking friends and neighbors how to speak English and the importance of learning it. What a task! Loggin into here is a neat way to keep up with what’s going on back home (I live in California). I had no idea what a Champion tree was and had heard of a hickory tree (and experienced many a hickory switch when I was a kid:)but I had not heard of a Bitternut Hickory. Its fun to learn stuff!

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  • Rickey

    It’s always sad when we loose a little bit of history, even if it was a tree. What a great idea to manufacture items from the wood from this tree! I’d like to see bird houses made from it in order to hang in yet another tree or perhaps simply decorative birdhouses. Admittedly, one can use only a certain amount of wood items in the home, but what about selling some of them? Or donating them to worthy causes and local historical organization!

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    • fairygrandmother

      Rickey I was thinking of you a few days ago since I had not seen a remark from you in a while. I am glad to see that you must be well.

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  • Katherine Reece

    Sorry to hear this tree went down. I’d hadn’t heard of this program before… I have a tree in my woods they need to check out … it’s MASSIVE.

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