BALTIMORE -- For $7, Maryland residents can buy a seedling grown from the Wye Oak, the 450-year-old tree that is the official state tree.
About 3,000 Wye Oak seedlings are two years old, about a foot high, growing at the state Forest, Park and Wildlife Service's Buckingham Forest Tree Nursery near Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
They'll be for sale in March.
For two decades, foresters have been gathering acorns from the ground around the Wye Oak, reputed to be the nation's biggest white oak.
Located in the Eastern Shore community of Wye Mills, the tree stands about 95 feet high, with a crown spread of 145 feet, and measures 50 feet around its base.
State lore has it that the tree was left standing in a clearing made by Indians, giving it plenty of room to grow and spread. Its age is figured at close to 450 years, about two centuries older than the average white oak.
The tree's last bumper acorn crop was in 1985, according to Buckingham nursery manager John Ayton, who said close to 4,000 seedlings from that crop were sold to the public last year.
The smaller segment of the crop was given an extra year to grow, he said.
Ayton said the trees come with a special certificate of parentage, but there is no guarantee they will match the grandeur of the Wye Oak.
The nursery expert said the Wye Oak seems to have a special quality, but there is no way to tell whether that quality is passed along to its seedlings.
The Wye Oak has weathered storms and resisted bugs, been sprayed and fertilized, and in what has become a tradition is pruned on alternate Arbor Days, with its next trim set for 1988.
How much longer the Wye Oak will stand, no one can say.
Its limbs have been shored with thousands of feet of cables, but heat and humidity caused one of them to snap in June 1984, and a 37-ton limb crashed to the ground.
In early December, to make sure that there will always be a Wye Oak, a 15-year-old sapling grown from one of its acorns was transplanted to the Wye Oak's fenced 1 1/2-acre state park in Talbot County.
To order a sapling, nursery employes asked that customers write a check for $7 for each tree, payable to the Department of Natural Resources. Maryland residents should add 35 cents for each tree to cover the state sales tax. The checks should be sent to John Ayton, Buckingham Forest Tree Nursery, Harmans, Md. 21077.
The nursery also asked that each order be accompanied by a separate sheet of paper with a typed or printed name and address for delivery. The saplings will be shipped by parcel service.