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Article and photos by Bill Christopher

On the campus of St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland stood a Tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) that was reputed to have been more than 400 years old. This Tulip tree was part of a grove where revolutionary leaders like Samuel Chase and the Sons of Liberty would gather to win over the public. These “Liberty Trees” were spread throughout the colonies and when the British found them they would chop them down.

It was already a mature tree when Annapolis residents staged their own tea party and burned the vessel Peggy Stewart. It was standing when French soldiers marched through the Annapolis to join General Washington at Yorktown in 1781. And it was part of the backdrop when Lafayette was present during the festivities honoring him in December 1824.

In 1984, at the conclusion of the Bicentennial of America celebrations, re-enactors recreated the Old Line of Maryland. They were in formation with the Liberty Tree as a background when they were officially disbanded, as seen in the photos below.

Tulip poplars customarily grow to be between 250 and 300 years of age. The Liberty Tree received special care from local horticultural experts, but after 400 years, the tree was devastated during Hurricane Floyd in September 1999. Following a ceremony on October 25, the Liberty Tree was taken down.

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