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Rome, Floyd celebrate trees, both new and old; 3 cherry trees join the list of state champions

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Rome celebrates Arbor Day today with the ceremonial planting of Yoshino cherry trees in Bailey Park, at the base of the city’s iconic Clock Tower, but Romans can also celebrate the seven state or national champion trees in Floyd County.

Ceremonies, which will include a rededication and ribbon cutting for improvements made to the Clock Tower in the past year, begin at 10 a.m.

Eric and Dianna Haney, of Cave Spring, have a unique distinction in that they have a state champion Southern catalpa tree in their backyard and a potential state champion Eastern hemlock in their front yard.

Dianna Haney calls her Southern catalpa Gandalf.

“Anything that old and magnificent has to be a wizard,” she said.

“That tree has some pretty prime genetics to be as large as it is,” said Anthony McClain, a forester with Trees Unlimited, who helped the Haneys certify their Southern catalpa.

Trees are scored by using measurements of the circumference of the trunk, the height of the tree and the crown spread, which is the width of the crown of the tree.

McClain estimates the tree to be at least 125 years old, but agrees with the Haneys that the tree could have been planted around the same time the home was built 147 years ago.

“It produces those great fishing worms, and in the spring when it flowers, the blooms look like little orchids,” Dianna Haney said.

McClain has worked with the Haneys to protect the integrity of the sprawling tree.

At one time a brick patio had been placed completely around the base of the tree, choking off its root system from water and other nutrients. The patio was removed several years ago and McClain said it appears the tree is flourishing.

The Eastern hemlock in their front yard is currently the second highest scoring tree of its species in the state. Eric Haney said someone at the Georgia Forestry Commission had told him within the last year that the state champion was dying and it was just a matter of time before the Haneys’ tree is declared a champion itself.

National champion Alabama black cherry and Nutmeg hickory trees are each located within the city limits of Rome. A national champion Florida maple is growing at Mount Berry.

State champion Northern catalpa and Japanese maple trees are both located at Mount Berry while the top Nuttall oak tree is located in the Riverside community.