Towering oak tapped as county’s top tree

Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick
The Madison County Master Gardeners selected this 100-foot tall burr oak in Mount Sterling as the county’s 2017 Heritage Tree. On hand for the recognition were: (from left) Master Gardeners Susi Rolfe and Randy Harper; property owners Roger and Karen Summers and their granddaughter, Emily Glick; Greg Cooley; and Master Gardeners Cathie Littleton and Russ Hessler.

(Posted Oct. 31, 2017)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Twice in the last 27 years, lightning has struck the mighty burr oak that towers over the Mount Sterling area home of Karen and Roger Summers. And yet it still stands.

Who knows what other challenges the 100-foot tall giant has endured in its long life, estimated by an arborist to be roughly 300 years old.

On Oct. 19, the Madison County Master Gardeners honored the tree for its longevity and uniqueness by naming it this year’s Madison County Heritage Tree. Karen Summers made the nomination.

“This tree makes our house. I love it,” she said. “It’s just a monster.”

Approximately 100 trees, including pine, maple, ash, and yet another large burr oak, dot the Summers’ property, which lies along Yankeetown Chenoweth Road. Karen and Roger have shared seedlings from those trees, including the burr oaks, with friends and family in Ohio and Indiana.

An appreciation for trees and the act of planting more trees is exactly what the Master Gardeners Heritage Tree program aims to promote.

Each year, the Master Gardeners select one tree from nominations submitted by the public. Evaluations are based on the tree’s age, size, history, access for public viewing, and uniqueness. The program started in 2009.

Past heritage trees include:
• a 107-foot larch tree at Forest Grove Cemetery outside of Plain City on Cemetery Pike (2009);
• a 63-foot swamp oak at Westwood Park in West Jefferson (2010);
• an 85-foot sycamore at the Wessel farm in Lafayette (2011);
• a 91-foot burr oak at the Fisher farm south of London (2012);
• a 69-foot sugar maple at Whitman Cemetery near Midway (2013);
• a 61-foot burr oak at the Madison County Fairgrounds (2014);
• a 31-foot magnolia on the Mabe property on State Route 42 (2015); and
• a 78-foot burr oak on the property of Madison Health (2016).

Master Gardeners are volunteers who receive training in horticulture through the Ohio State University Extension. In exchange for that training, they volunteer their time to assist with educational programs and activities, such as answering gardening questions from the public, holding plant clinics, and beautifying the community.

For more about the Master Gardeners or the Heritage Tree program, call the Madison County OSU Extension Office at (740) 852-0975 or for general information, go to

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