Biography of A Durham Finest Tree

By Wendy Diaz

Fall is a time of year when trees catch our gaze again as they change colors but if we look more closely it may be an opportunity to find the next Durham’s Finest Tree. One of our earliest Durham’s Finest Trees¹ entries is a Willow Oak (Quercus phellos) in a back yard along Watts Street in the Trinity Park neighborhood of Durham. Between 1900 and 1910, farmland was subdivided by Brodie L. Duke and developed for residential homes by “merchants, businessmen and professionals” and faculty of Trinity College. The actual house was built between 1915 and 1930 according to Open Durham ( The approximate age of the tree is 90 years dating back to this early residential development. The trunk circumference is 220 inches! It is approximately 95 feet high and its crown spread is about 82 feet. The nominee writes to us that in August 2014 a lower limb fell on a building next door and as a result its limbs were trimmed with an estimated crown reduction of 20 feet. This Willow Oak is estimated to be taller than the current North Carolina Champion Tree of the same species (height 80 feet, circumference 307 inches, and 126 feet crown spread) Keep the nominations coming!

Photo courtesy of Robert H. Appleby
Photo courtesy of Robert H. Appleby
  1.  Durham’s Finest Trees program recognizes significant trees in Durham County, promotes discovery and ability to identify trees, and helps preserve the best examples of specific tree species, particularly native and those trees well adapted to Durham County.  The program also promotes awareness of trees in our community and hopes to catalog fine examples of magnificent specimens of trees due to their size, setting, historical importance, or significant feature.

Nomination forms and additional information about Durham’s Finest Trees are located HERE