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Where in the Hudson Valleyâ€¦?
Regular readers of this space — which most often features photos of local statues, buildings, and other constructions — are no doubt scratching their heads at this photo. Identifying man-made landmarks is tricky enough, but guessing the whereabouts of a single tree? Impossible.
But this is no ordinary tree. Scientists have determined that it started growing in 1699 (to put that in perspective, William Shakespeare had been dead only 83 years when it sprouted from the ground). An Eastern Cottonwood, it stands over 80 feet high, with a massive trunk measuring close to 26 inches around. It is a minor miracle that it stayed alive even into the 18th century, since Eastern Cottonwoods usually live only 75 to 100 years. In recent years, the tree has survived several threats to its existence, including 1999’s Hurricane Floyd (whose winds reduced its height by about 30 feet) and attempts to have it removed as a traffic hazard. But thanks to local preservationists, a state law enacted in the 1970s designated the tree as a “unique plant,” and the ground it stands on a “public historic park,” making it New York’s smallest state forest.
Perhaps most interesting of all is that, while this special tree has a formal name, it is a misnomer. During the 1900s, locals mistakenly thought it was an exotic poplar, not a cottonwood; both the tree (and the hamlet in which it’s located) are named for this unusual species (which we can’t reveal without giving the game away).
Think you know where in the Hudson Valley this tremendous timber stands? Then e-mail us at email@example.com. The first person to correctly identify the tree and its location wins a small prize. Check next month’s issue for the correct answer.