There’s a secret treasure hidden all over Charlotte. Something priceless. Magic. You might have already seen one and not even noticed. Hidden throughout Charlotte are over 100 white diamonds to find, but the map has been lost. The diamonds belong to trees.
In the late 80’s, the Treasure Tree program began designating special trees (historical or ecological) in Mecklenburg County. Remember—this is the city that once discussed naming their NBA team the Charlotte Trees. There was even an annual black-tie gala for the trees and caretaker in the past. Throughout 2002, these selected trees were given a small white diamond, the total ending up at 123 trees.
The program isn’t active any longer, and the diamonds are mostly forgotten. But some still wait—for a passerby to notice the treasure they are. The only remaining bit of Treasure Trees is a tiny organization named Queen’s Crown. Started by Patrick George of Heartwood Tree Service, the Queen’s Crown carries on the tradition of Treasure Trees. George is the only person who has seen most of the 123 trees and works passionately to make his community better by taking care of the trees and the history of Treasure Trees.
A few of Charlotte’s favorite trees:
Queens University Basswood (1830 Queens Rd): Just behind the Gingko on the Radcliffe side of the property. Thomas Jefferson preferred this tree, planting many of its kind that still remain at Monticello.
Glossy Privet (2001 Queens Rd. E): This medium-sized tree hugs the left side of the house when looking at the front door and is easily overlooked given the size of many other trees on this list. This is a North Carolina State Champion tree!
Deodar Cedar (2701 Briarcliff Pl): A non-native tree related to the biblical Lebanese Cedar, it’s a North Carolina State Champion, too. (See if you can spot a Treasure Tree tag at this location.)
Japanese Zelkova (2735 Bucknell Ave): Zelkova’s aren’t native but are often planted as street trees. Looking at the home, this medium-sized tree sits to the right of the front door. Another North Carolina State Champion tree.
Pecan (212 Ridgewood Ave): Maybe one of the worst teases on this list, this massive Pecan sits in the backyard of this home and peaks out at you over the roof. It’s hard to experience its majesty from the distance from the street, though.
Winghaven Chaste Tree (248 Ridgewood Ave): Tour the Winghaven Gardens and see if you can find this one!
Duke Mansion: Take a 2-mile walk and experience 10 extraordinary trees on Duke Mansion’s grounds. Here are two you can’t miss:
*Duke Mansion Tulip Poplar (400 Hermitage Rd): Up the driveway leading to the house, you’ll encounter a tree so wide you’d expect it to be a Sequoia.
*Duke Mansion Eastern Red Cedar (400 Hermitage Rd): Just past the Tulip Poplar on the right side of the driveway to the front door of the Inn, you’ll spot this tree. Once called the Graveyard Tree, it was said that if you planted this tree at your birth, by the time you die, it will just be large enough to shade your grave.
Bigleaf Magnolia (531 Hermitage Rd): Located across the street from 530 Hermitage Rd, look for a smooth-barked tree of moderate size with leaves anywhere from 2-3 feet long.
Queens University Gingko (1830 Queens Rd): A relic of the age of dinosaurs, the Gingko here is massive. Look for the fan-shaped leaves to identify this beauty. This tree really shines in the fall when it turns mustard yellow and falls within 48 hours.
Give me a call if you’d like to go check out some of these trees around town together. It’s kind of fun!
Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21