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Webster Sycamore


A magnificent sycamore that stood along the banks of the Back Fork of Elk River in Webster County about five miles from the town of Webster Springs was once considered West Virginia’s biggest tree. Foresters estimated its age at 350 years or more.

Also known as the American plane tree, sycamores are the largest trees native to West Virginia. Local legend says the Webster sycamore was passed by early lumbermen out of respect for its size, but perhaps it was spared because sycamore was not a valuable lumber tree or because of the lack of machinery to handle a tree of its size. The lowest limbs were more than 40 feet from the ground, and in the 1950s two hemlock trees, one 14 feet tall and one seven feet tall, were growing out of one of its dead limbs. The sycamore was estimated to be 112 feet in height, with a circumference of more than 309 inches, and a crown spread of 90 feet. While not the tallest tree in West Virginia, it received the most points for combined height, circumference, and spread on a scale used by foresters to calculate tree size.

The sycamore, a local landmark, was the starting point for the 5K Run, which is held each year during the Webster County Woodchopping Festival. Unfortunately, the big tree was damaged by disease and vandalism. In 2007, a fire was set in the hollow portion of the tree, and it could not be saved. The tree fell over during the winter of 2009-2010.

Written by E. Lynn Miller