Hemlocks Natural Area dedication as old-growth forest

Pennsylvania's addition of the Hemlocks Natural Area to the Old-Growth Forest Network was celebrated on Oct. 25, 2022, by members of the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Tuscarora State Forest staff, the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps and the Old-Growth Forest Network. (PA Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources)

Maryland and Pennsylvania have added forested tracts containing some of the oldest trees in their states to the Old-Growth Forest Network.

Started in 2011 by Joan Maloof, a retired professor from Maryland’s Salisbury University, the nonprofit Old-Growth Forest Network seeks to preserve at least one forest in every U.S. county where the trees haven’t been timbered in at least 150 years —or where they can be protected to eventually sustain old-growth woods.

In September, a 14-acre tract known as the Schoolhouse Woods in Queen Anne’s County, MD, near Queenstown, was added to the network. Some of the oak trees are estimated to be more than 200 years old. A holly tree is an estimated to be 290–400 years old.

Schoolhouse Woods, MD

Schoolhouse Woods, with oak trees more than 200 years old, is Maryland's latest addition to the Old-Growth Forest Network. (Courtesy of Old-Growth Forest Network)

Schoolhouse Woods is part of the state-owned Wye Island Natural Resources Management Area. There are 6 miles of trails. The 1.2-mile Schoolhouse Woods Trail winds through the heart of the old-growth forest. The Holly Tree Trail leads to the centuries-old holly tree.

On Oct. 25, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources added the 120-acre Hemlocks Natural Area in southcentral Pennsylvania to the network.

Hemlocks Natural Area

The Hemlocks Natural Area in Pennsylvania is the state's 26th entry in the Old-Growth Forest Network. (PA Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources)

Part of the Tuscarora State Forest, the Hemlocks Natural Area contains a virgin hemlock forest in a narrow ravine. Many of the trees are believed to be more than 225 years old with the largest reaching more than 120 feet in height and 50 inches in diameter.

Earlier this year, DCNR added Sweet Root Natural Area in Bedford County and Beartown Woods in Franklin County to the network.

Pennsylvania has 26 designated old-growth sites, the most of any state in the network. Maryland has 11 sites.

For information or to volunteer with the Old-Growth Forest Network, visit oldgrowthforest.net.

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Ad Crable is a Bay Journal staff writer based in Pennsylvania. Contact him at 717-341-7270 or acrable@bayjournal.com.

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