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N. H. State Champion white poplar is cut down

The N.H. State Champion White Poplar (Populus alba) was a handsome tree, but last week homeowner Charlie Bond of Jefferson reluctantly decided that its condition required that it be cut down. Another tree seen in this photograph could become the Coös Champion and possibly the State Champion. (click for larger version)
September 26, 2012
JEFFERSON — "Since 1990 the White Poplar in our front yard has held the New Hampshire record for the largest of its variety," explained North Road homeowner Charlie Bond. "In recent years it has required support cables to ensure that it doesn't fall on our house in a wind storm. Last week we made the tough decision that we couldn't risk another winter with it hanging over our roof."

The tree is listed as a N. H. State Champion online at http://extension.unh.edu/fwt/documents/CompleteListingofNHChampionTrees.pdf.

On Thursday, Arnold "Arnie" Davis of West Milan, who has been in business since 1984, and his crew brought it down, Bond explained in an e-mail exchange. "It took six men a total of nine hours to complete the job," he said. "The stump is 62 inches — more than five feet — across. The center of the tree was so punk that only about a third of the trunk was solid wood." The tree was approximately 61 feet tall.

"And every crotch throughout the tree was weak," added Davis in a telephone interview. "I'd been cabling and pruning it for some years, and as the owner said: 'It's time had come.'"

Davis and his crew chipped the brush for Bond to use as landscaping mulch, and the owner shared the firewood with a neighbor as well as with Davis who heats his own home with an outside boiler.

"That was a beautiful big tree, and I am sad to learn of its death," said retired USFS forester Dave Govatski of Jefferson. "It is a popular tree because of its leaf color and rapid growth. Charlie took great care of this landmark tree on North Road. I always looked at the White Poplar every time I passed by."

"The white poplar (Populus alba) was carried to Europe by Crusaders returning from the Holy Land," explained retired county forester Sam Stoddard of Lancaster. "European immigrants then brought this species to New England in the middle 1700s before the Revolutionary War. The species is considered to have been officially introduced to America in something like 1758. The tree was planted in dooryards throughout much of early New England. However, its benefits of good shade, fast growth and beauty are somewhat offset by its brittle wood that causes some branch breakage, particularly in old age. I have seen aggressive seedling development in lawns usually under the parent tree, which is a common trait of many of the Poplar species. However, I have not personally noticed any real, lasting invasiveness in northern New Hampshire. I have only ever seen this species in the form of ornamentals near houses and have not encountered it in the woods.

"I think Charlie Bond has a second, smaller white poplar that may potentially become the new Coös Champion tree," Stoddard said. "Because there is no other white poplar currently on the state register, it may become the new State champion as well."

Garnett Hill
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Martin Lord Osman
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