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The state tree of Maryland is the white oak, or Quercus alba. This native tree was chosen as the official state tree of Maryland in 1941. These trees typically grow to a height of 60 to 150 feet (18.3 to 45.7 meters) and may be as large as 4 feet (1.2 meters) in diameter. They can live for more than six centuries, and are typically able to produce acorns, their fruit, after about the 50th year of life. The average white oak tree produces around 10,000 acorns each year, which provide food for dozens of species of animals and were traditionally eaten by both European colonists and Native Americans.
The white oak is generally prized commercially for its attractive hardwood, which was traditionally valued for making barrels. Though commonly referred to as a white oak, the state tree of Maryland usually has gray bark. Its leaves are usually reddish in color when they first appear each spring, though they normally turn green about seven days after they appear on the trees. The leaves are typically shiny and smooth and sport between five and seven lobes.
This species was probably chosen as the state tree of Maryland because it is prevalent in the state, and because of its importance to early colonists. Early inhabitants of the area, both European and indigenous, relied on the tree's edible acorns as a source of food. In the absence of other grains, early residents of Maryland milled the acorns of the white oak tree to create a kind of flour.
The state of Maryland's Wye Oak State Park was once home to the Wye oak, a white oak specimen that was considered one of the biggest trees in the United States. The Wye oak was also considered the biggest white oak tree in the country, at a height of 96 feet (29.3 meters) and a diameter of 31.8 feet (9.7 meters). It was believed to be about 500 years old. The Wye oak was killed on 6 June 2002, probably by a bolt of lightning. A tree cloned from the original Wye oak has now been planted on the same spot, and trees grown from the Wye oak's acorns or cloned from the tree itself can be found growing throughout the state, as well as at Mount Vernon, home of United States President George Washington.
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