This yellowwood tree is one of many in Yellowwood State Forest. (Michael Spalding / Indiana DNR)
This yellowwood tree is one of many in Yellowwood State Forest. (Michael Spalding / Indiana DNR)
Portions of Brown County State Park and nearby Yellowwood State Forest are getting special designation as a high conservation value forest area because of the rare yellowwood trees found there, and only there in Indiana.

The certification through the Forest Stewardship Council is a way to ensure that 591 acres where the trees are growing is managed so they remain part of the landscape, according to Mike Spalding, resource specialist with Monroe-Monroe and Yellowwood state forests.

Indiana’s yellowwood trees are the northernmost of the species and only found in portions of Brown County State Park and in the southeastern part of Yellowwood State Forest east of Crooked Creek Road. The trees were first discovered in 1933 by Civilian Conservation Corps workers in Brown County State Park. Foresters T.E. Shaw and Charles Deam, Indiana’s first state forester, verified and documented the discovery.

One theory was the yellowwood trees were brought north by settlers from Kentucky, but that was proved false when the trees’ were analyzed. The results showed the trees were genetically distinct and had been in the area for thousands of years. The fact that there are so few of the yellowwood trees left is what makes their conservation value so high, Spalding said.

The analysis of the trees was sparked by Allen Pursell, director of forest conservation for Indiana with The Nature Conservancy, who, years ago, discussed the uniqueness of the yellowwood trees being so far north with a colleague. When Purdue University was able to do genetic testing, they sent samples and requested the trees be tested.
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