Big, big trees (May 3 and anytime)

May 1, 2008

There are big trees, and then there are champions — trees whose height, circumference and spread, tallied together, earn them a spot on a state’s top tree register. Never heard of champion trees? Check out the lists for Missouri and Illinois online. Each state has a few national champions too; unfortunately, the only one in the St. Louis area, an eastern wahoo, is on private property at the Norwood Hills Country Club. Perhaps not surprisingly, there are a couple more national champs in Big Oak Tree State Park in Mississippi County, including a pumpkin ash and a swamp chestnut oak.

Some notable big trees nearby in Illinois include a 114-foot American elm at 900 St. Louis St. in Edwardsville and a 132-foot red hickory in St. Clair County at NW 1/4 Sec. 20, T3S-R7W. If you think you’d need a GPS system to decipher that destination, you’re right — the advent of new mapping technology means these trees can be pinpointed. For amateurs, this is great. If you find a big tree you can take some preliminary measurements and send them in to the state, which will evaluate your recommendation.

But, as you might guess, it’s not such a simple matter to measure a 132-foot tree! On Saturday (May 3) there’s a free class at The Nature Institute’s Talahi Lodge in Godfrey, Ill. After volunteers learn how to measure trees and record their GPS coordinates, there will be an hour’s worth of practice time on five or 10 trees. Registration is required for this free event; call 618.466.9930 to sign up.

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