Kansas Grows from 0 to 8

New rule helps state claim champion trees through national register.
American Forests
May 9, 2008
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Green Ash in Cass County, Michigan
Courtesy Davey Tree Expert Co.


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Kansas went for big trees in a big way this year, going from no national champions in 2006 to eight in 2008. Its titleholder trees are among 733 crowned in the 2008-2009 National Register of Big Trees, maintained by American Forests, the nation’s oldest conservation group, and sponsored by The Davey Tree Expert Co.

The National Register of Big Trees is the biennial listing of the largest known trees of 826 species. A new rule this year that trees have to be remeasured within 10 years to remain on the list caused the most sweeping changes in the register’s 68-year history. A total of 219 new champs and co-champs were crowned in 44 states and the District of Columbia.

Six states – Delaware, Hawaii, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Wyoming – had no champs at all.

American Forests relies on public participation to find and nominate champion trees; the nominations are then verified by state coordinators and the list updated every two years. Trees receive a point total based on their height, circumference, and ¼ of their crown spread. Trees within 5 points become co-champions.

Kansas’ champion trees are: a 236-point little walnut in Barber County; two Oriental arborvitae, one in Leavenworth County, the other in Saline County; a narrowleaf cottonwood in Cheyenne County; and a dwarf chinkapin oak in Brown County. Johnson County claimed three: a 195-point western soapberry, a 40-foot-tall paper birch, and a Washington hawthorn.

The biggest of the big trees on this year’s list is again California’s General Sherman giant sequoia in Sequoia National Park – Earth’s largest living thing and a perennial champ since the first register in 1940. Standing 274 feet tall with a girth of 1,020 inches and a crown spread of 107 feet, it racks up a point total of 1,321.

The smallest big tree is a Geyer willow on Fort Apache Indian Reservation in Arizona, which stands 13 feet tall with a girth of just 10 inches and a crown spread of 14 feet for a total of 27 points. It’s the first time a Geyer willow has ever been nominated to the register.

Information about all the champions can be found at American Forests’ Web site, www.AmericanForests.org. The site also contains downloadable trivia about the champs, a description of how to measure a tree, a nomination form for new champs, and e-mailable postcards. You also can check out the list of 189 species that are currently without a national champion.

Plant a Future Champion

Not all trees can hold the “biggest” title for their species but they’re all champs when it comes to helping the environment. Trees – especially big trees – provide more cooling shade and more places for wildlife to perch and nest. They sequester more carbon dioxide, trap more pollutants and clean more of the air and water. For just $1 each, American Forests’ Global ReLeaf Forests program will plant trees where they’re needed most – in forests damaged by wildfire, weather, and man.

Grow Your Own Champion

Give your yard the royal touch – plant a tree with champion bloodlines. American Forests’ Historic Tree Nursery sells the progeny of trees connected to famous people, events and places. Among those trees: the offspring of two Texas state champs – a bur oak and an Eve’s necklace – and a former champion crape myrtle. To see a list of all available trees, visit www.HistoricTrees.org.

Big Facts About Big Trees

From American Forests’ 2008-2009 National Register of Big Trees

General Facts:
Total number of champions and co-champions: 733
Number of new national champion trees since the 2006 Register: 219
Number of species without a national champ: 189
Biggest champ overall: Giant Sequoia “General Sherman” (1,321 points), Sequoia National Park, California
Smallest champ overall: Geyer Willow (27 points), Fort Apache Indian Reservation, Arizona
Biggest new champ: Sycamore (577 points), Ashland, Ohio
Smallest new champ: Geyer Willow (27 points), Fort Apache Indian Reservation, Arizona
Biggest new conifer: 548-point Ponderosa Pine from Trinity, California
Biggest new broadleaf: Sycamore (577 points), Ashland, Ohio
Biggest circumference on a new champ: Northern California Walnut (444 inches), El Dorado, California
Tallest new champ: Ponderosa Pine (240 feet), Trinity, California
Biggest crown spread on a new champ: Pignut Hickory (142 feet), Allen, Kentucky
States with the most champs: Arizona (94), Florida (86), California (82), Texas (72) and Virginia (56)
States without a champion: Delaware, Hawaii, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Wyoming
State with the most new champs: Virginia (37)

Notable New Champs

Sweetgum was absent from the 2006 Register, and there was fierce competition to find a new champ. Ten states nominated trees, but a 384-point specimen from South Carolina beat out all the others to claim the title.

Three new species will be represented in the register for the first time ever; Bigleaf Snowbell (co-champs in North Carolina), Littleleaf Sumac (Arizona), and Geyer Willow (Arizona).

The throne for the Ohio Buckeye (Ohio’s state tree) has moved from Ohio to Illinois after a 266-point tree was nominated from Illinois. The new Ohio Buckeye champ stands at Hamburger University, McDonald’s corporate headquarters. 

Fallen Champs

Number that died or were dethroned since 2006: 358

Notable Losses:

856-point “Klootchy Creek Giant” Sitka Spruce of Oregon was toppled by high winds in 2007.

563-point Eastern Cottonwood of Nebraska came down in a storm during the summer of 2007.

Louisiana’s Seven Sisters Live Oak was dethroned after a former Georgia co-champion was remeasured and gained more than 5 points on the Seven Sisters oak, making the Georgia tree the standalone champion.

Rhode Island lost its only champion due to the 10-year rule.

340-point Northern White-Cedar of Leelanau County, Michigan, was found dead. The tree had reigned since 1953.

Remaining (Original) Champs from Class of 1940

Giant Sequoia (“General Sherman”), Sequoia National Park, California

Rocky Mountain Juniper (“Jardine Juniper”), Cache National Forest, Utah

Western Juniper (“Bennett Juniper”), Stanislaus National Forest, California

American Forests’ mission is to grow a healthier world with trees by working with communities on local efforts that restore and maintain forest ecosystems. Their work encompasses planting trees, calculating the value of urban forests, fostering environmental education and improving public policy for trees at the national level. They have a goal of 100 million trees planted by 2020. Visit the Web site at www.AmericanForests.org.

The Davey Tree Expert Co. provides tree, shrub and lawn care, large tree moving, grounds management, vegetation management and consulting services throughout North America. Founded in 1880, Davey has more than 7,000 employees. For more information about the company, visit the Web site www.Davey.com. American Forests’ National Register of Big Trees is sponsored by The Davey Tree Expert Co., which also sponsors American Forests’ National Register of Big Trees Calendar.

If you are passionate about forestry and looking for a career path that will keep you close with nature, take a look at Fire Science Online's guide to careers and degrees. You'll find what you need to get a jump start on a life of forestry. You can also find programs for firefighter education and training.


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