You don’t have to be a tree expert to appreciate the value and beauty of trees. Perhaps it is because they are ever present on our lawns, along our streets, and in our parks that they often are taken for granted.

“The wonder is that we can see these trees and not wonder more” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

A magnificent and/or exceptional tree can capture the hearts of those who take time to admire it. These significant specimens are just around the corner, living among us; offering benefits to the environment, providing us with medicines, and inspiring us with stories. Stop and explore some of the extraordinary local trees.

In the Basking Ridge area, there are several Oak trees which live up to their nickname “The Mighty Oak.” One close to our heart is the Southard Oak Tree located in Southard Park. Under Tamke’s perpetual care since 1996, this grand tree is a monument of strength and tenacity. Over 250 years old, the Southard Oak has withstood the stress of weather, construction and foot traffic, and continues to stand tall. Another old oak tree is located in the graveyard of the Presbyterian Church in Basking Ridge center. It was just a young sapling when Columbus discovered America, and a full grown mature tree in the late 1770’s when George Washington was said to have picnicked under it. The third exceptional Oak in the area, growing in an undeveloped field on Mountain Road, is a solitary Oak which has acquired the name “The Devil’s Tree”. Local legend, documented in Weird NJ magazine and book, says it is cursed.

In New Vernon, NJ a Tamke cared-for Yellowwood proves to be one of the nation’s largest. With low spreading branches of 71 feet and a trunk circumference of 221 inches, this Yellowwood is listed on the National Register of Big Trees for 2008-2009. A Yellowwood tree is generally a slow growing tree, which blooms in spring with white flowers resembling that of a wisteria. The grand display is simply spectacular.

In Morristown, NJ, a Persimmon displaying edible fruit has gained recognition for its size. It is listed in New Jersey’s Big Trees, a publication of more than 100 species of champion size trees located throughout the state. Although zoned for as far north as Connecticut, the Persimmon requires a warm dry site and is typically seen thriving in more southern regions. What has made this Persimmon so exceptional? Is it its means or its pure will to survive? Maybe a little bit of both!

Trees like these have earned our respect as valuable, yet seemingly silent contributors to the environment. They also captivate us, gaining our admiration simply as beautiful living organisms among us. There are more trees like these yet to be discovered; splendid specimens simply waiting for us to notice.