Everyone loves the beauty of big trees. There’s just something about them that command more respect and attention than those found in urban areas. After all, trees are the oldest living organisms. To give you some perspective, the giant sequoias attain a height of 300 feet and diameter of 30 feet at their base. Missouri doesn’t have the giant sequoias, but there is a baldcypress on record that was 39 feet in circumference, or 12 feet in diameter. That’s the size of some trampolines!

So, you must be wondering, how big is big?

American Forests and the Missouri Department of Conservation use a formula to rank the value of big trees. Your tree can get more or less points based on height, crown spread, and trunk size. The circumference is typically measured at a point 4.5 feet above the ground to the height in feet to one-fourth of the average crown spread.

Is Your Tree Eligible to be a Champion?

Not all trees are eligible to be champions. First, your tree must be naturalized or native to the area. Native trees are considered to be survivors of the ice age. And yes, there are trees that live to be hundreds of years old. Some examples of these trees include shortleaf pine and shagbark hickory. Naturalized trees are different in that they’re exotic. These are trees that were introduced from other regions or continents and have established themselves as if they’re native. The white mulberry is a great example of a Missouri tree that have become naturalized.

Trees that are excluded from eligibility include horticultural varieties, hybrids, and exotic species, like the winter king hawthorn.

Measuring Circumference

As said before, you can start measuring the circumference of your tree just 4.5 feet above the ground. If a growth or branch gets in your way, measure below it where the circumference is the least. If the tree forks under this point, you should measure the larger fork at 4.5 feet.

Second, locate the point at 4.5 feet above the ground on the trunk and place the zero end of your measuring tape there. The tape should be wrapped around the trunk tightly so that it doesn’t snag and meets the zero end of the tape exactly. The circumference is read in feet and inches.

Stick around for part two of how to identify a state champion later this week. We’ll be discussing how to measure crown spread and the height of your next Missouri champ!