One of Vernon’s unique places is the J. Maynard Miller Town Forest, home of several stands of black gum trees (Nyssa sylvatica), some of them more than 400 years old. This is the only place in Vermont this species of tree can be found. Typically the black gum is found south of the Mason-Dixon line, where it is known as the tupelo or black tupelo.
In 2016, the State of Vermont proposed to designate the black gum swamps as a Class I wetland, providing the highest level of protection.
One black gum tree in the Vernon forest was measured to be 435 years old. At another location in southern New Hampshire, a black gum was found to be 562 years old. These trees are not only among the oldest trees in New England, but they may be the oldest broadleaf deciduous trees in North America.
There are at least seven different swamp areas (totaling 28 acres) within the forest and and at least one more nearby with black gum trees. Their presence is thought to be the result of a period 3,000-5,000 years ago when the climate in this area was warmer. J. Maynard Miller, a local dairy farmer, for whom the forest is named, convinced the town back in the early 1970s of the importance of this tract and persuaded the town to buy it to ensure its permanent protection. (more…)