Most folks call them "the king and queen trees," and they do have a certain regal bearing - very tall with substantial girth and limbs, expansive middle, and an age Scott Wade estimates at between 250 and 275 years.

"These are big guys, for sure," he says of the two massive white oaks down by the barn at Springton Manor Farm in Glenmoore, originally owned by William Penn's family and now a Chester County park.

Named for the color of their wood, white oaks are native to eastern North America and known for their sweet-tasting acorns and dense, water-resilient wood, historically used to build ships, bridges, furniture, and barrels.

Mostly, though, white oaks are prized for being big, huge, larger than any tree you've ever climbed in or sat under. And unlike just about everything else labeled "awesome" these days, these trees truly are.

Which helps explain the spell they cast on Wade and other members of an arboreal subculture that celebrates not just the Quercus alba, but other grand trees, too, such as the American beech and tulip poplar. These folks can't drive or walk anywhere - they can't even do errands or go on vacation - without stopping to admire or measure the big trees along the way.

When you ask why, they pause and stammer, more or less speechless.

"I don't know. It's respect, I guess," says Wade, the Pennsylvania Forestry Association's big-tree guy.

"Difficult question. They're pretty special, I guess," adds Dave Johnson, regional forester for the New Jersey Forest Service.

"There's just something about them," suggests George Fieo of Collegeville, who works for the Upper Providence Township public-works department and also helps Wade with measuring.

Julianne Schieffer, urban forester for Pennsylvania State University in the Philadelphia area, tries to explain: "It's like getting in touch with past generations, in the same way we revere 100-year-old people. It's respect for a life well-lived, and it shows us the possibilities of what we can all become, too."

Stand beneath the king tree at Springton Manor, a 300-acre demonstration farm with goats, sheep, pigs, cows, and a few retired horses, and you'll begin to understand.

As befits his age, the king is gnarly, with bumpy bark and long, undulating limbs that skirt the ground. The temptation is great to climb aboard, but signs discourage this.

Still, you can just imagine children racing around the still-green sapling and climbing all over the straight and smooth young tree. You can see the teenagers leaning against a thickening trunk or lolling in the grass beneath a mesmerizing canopy.

"And you know young people were down here hiding and kissing and stuff," says Wade, a stay-at-home dad from Media who also works part-time cataloguing trees at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square.

Like other old-timers, the king still has what it takes. A silent tree is great company, a realization Fieo experienced early in life.

A member, like Wade, of the Eastern Native Tree Society, Fieo remembers climbing the trees in front of his house in Norristown when he was 5 or 6 to spy on the cars and people passing beneath him.

"I used to bear-hug those trees because there were no branches down below," he says.

The broad-shouldered pair in Glenmoore, which get full sun out in a field and water from a nearby pond, continue to flourish on the farm, just as they did over more than two centuries of ownership by the McConneghy, McIlvaine, Atlee, and Bartol families.

Using a forester's tape measure with units in the tens of feet, a laser range finder to figure distance, and a clinometer, which uses angles to calculate height, Wade records the king at 17 feet, 8 inches around and 88 feet, 3 inches tall. With his size 12 feet, he paces off a 102-foot spread or crown.

Then, using a standard based on height, circumference, and spread, Wade assigns the king tree 326 points to the stout queen's 345. Both are big, but neither is the biggest white oak in Pennsylvania; that's a 382-pointer in Fayette County.

Nonetheless, "these are very, very nice trees," says Wade, who hopes to update the forestry association's 2006 edition of Big Trees of Pennsylvania by 2011.

Johnson, who runs New Jersey's big-tree program, thinks these jumbo specimens enjoy special status even among non-tree folks. "But a lot of people take everyday trees for granted," he says, not understanding the benefits they offer - climate control, energy cost savings, food and habitat for wildlife, as well as psychological boost and aesthetic enhancement.

Linda Finley, with her Penn State forestry professor-husband, owns 300 wooded acres in Elk County. She cherishes all her trees - the black cherries, hardwoods, and conifers - and the environment they provide for black bears, coyotes, raccoons, porcupines, birds . . .

And humans.

"Walking through our forest is very emotional for me. I feel a calmness, a connection with creation," says Finley, president of the 1,200-member Pennsylvania Forestry Association.

"I look at the trees and I wonder, 'What have you witnessed?' "

Last week, the king and queen trees at Springton Manor witnessed a picnic, albeit from afar and undoubtedly not the first. On a brilliant summer morning, Tessa Nathan of Pottstown and her two youngsters were enjoying sandwiches near their parked car. They had a clear view of the ancient trees as they ate.

Yes, indeed, they visited the white oaks down by the lower pond. "It was neat to see how thick they are and how big the branches are, down on the ground," Nathan says.

Read gardening writer Virginia A. Smith's blog at www.philly.com/philly/blogs/gardeningEndText