North Bethesda’s mighty 300-year-old white oak tree, the Linden Oak, has reached the end of its life and will be removed the week of June 12, Montgomery Parks officials confirmed Friday. This weekend will be the last time to take a final gander at the historic tree that survived the American Revolution and is the oldest known oak tree in Maryland.
Colter Burkes, a senior urban forester at Montgomery Parks, said in an email to MoCo360 that the tree died last year after a slow decline in health over several years. It is being removed due to safety concerns.
The tree is estimated to be upwards of 300-years-old. According to the Maryland Historical Trust, the oak is dated to 1718.
A plaque near the tree says the Linden Oak is the fourth largest white oak in the state of Maryland and the largest in the county at over 95 feet in height with a crown spread of 132 feet.
Another historical marker said that the oak was “saved from destruction by the Metro construction” in 1973 by former County Councilmember Idamae Garrot, who lobbied to protect the tree. She was successful and the Metro red line track was redesigned to go around the tree.
In November 2020, a large limb of the roughly 100-foot oak broke off the tree, signaling its poor health. A Washington D.C. arborist, Keith Pitchford, told MoCo360 in December 2020, it was clear the tree was “on its last legs.”
Pitchford said that grading and infill from the the Metrorail construction in the mid-1970s is likely to have weakened the tree.
“All of that soil is added on top of the root system of that tree and it basically kills those roots that were under there. And the tree has to regenerate it in another part of the root system, and that takes a lot of energy,” he said.
“Trees don’t like changes to their living situation any more than most people do. They get very set in their ways, and if they like an area where they’re growing, there’s good rooting and good nutrients and everything else is in the right percentages, then they can go for a long, long time.”
The Linden Oak is located in Rock Creek Park in North Bethesda near the intersection of Beach Drive, Grosvenor Lane and Rockville Pike.
Montgomery Parks plans to evaluate the wood from a portion of the tree to be sculptured into a work of art by a local chainsaw artist, which will be placed in a nearby park.
The lower trunk of the tree will remain onsite to serve as a memorial to the life of the tree, as well as the two existing plaques commemorating the oak as a bicentennial tree in 1976 and recognizing Garrot’s efforts to save the tree.