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Extreme weather topples champion trees at Hagley Museum and Library

Recent extreme weather in the Wilmington area did not damage Hagley Museum and Library. But the straight line winds seen August 7, 2020 on the 235-acre property downed many trees, including three state champions.


And a massive clean-up effort continues nearly two weeks after the storm left its path of destruction across the property.


“We lost approximately 130 different trees throughout the property,” said Paul Orpello, the director of gardens and horticulture at Hagley.

He says one of the trees toppled by the storm was a centuries-old Osage orange that was named a Co-National Champion Tree in 2011. The Osage orange, located on the upper property between the E.I. du Pont Garden and the Hagley Barn, was also featured in the Delaware Forestry Service’s “Big Trees of Delaware” book as the largest of its kind in the state.

He notes that it’s not clear where the tree came from, although they know it was on the property before the du Pont family.


“Speculation is that it was either planted by Native Americans sometime ago, when they inhabited the area. Or that it was brought back through the Lewis and Clark Expedition and shared with E.I.  du Pont,” Orpello said.

Orpello says since the tree fell, arborists are counting its rings to determine its true age. And he notes since one third of the root system is still in the ground and showing signs of stable life, he plans to make a reduction to the tree in order to keep it alive.


Orpello says determining the tree’s age will probably take about a year.

He adds that he plans to use the wood cut from the tree to make commemorative bowls, plates and utensils and even possibly some furniture to display around the E.I. du Pont Garden.

Two other state champion trees were also felled by the storm on Friday, Aug 7, 2020, including a 90-foot tall sugar maple and a 62-foot tall shingle oak.




Kelli Steele has over 30 years of experience covering news in Delaware, Baltimore, Winchester, Virginia, Phoenix, Arizona and San Diego, California.