Big trees fascinate people and catch their attention. At first sight, they are often amazed at their size and beauty. They help spur the imagination of how the tree got there, what it has witnessed, and why did this particular tree live so long. Big trees are a minority in any forest and they grace our landscape with nobility.
In 1972, a list of Vermont’s largest trees began to assemble under the guidance of Jeff Freeman, now a retired professor from Castleton State College. The list contained 27 of the largest trees then known, listing diameter only. Later lists in 1977 and 1982 expanded the list to 75 and 81 species respectively. Then, in 1990, the list included 91 species and followed the system that American Forests (AF) has used since 1940, which included circumference, tree height and crown spread as criteria. The AF National Register lists 734 species of Big Trees and is available electronically. There are 110 species and varieties on Vermont’s current list. They range in score from 48 for the Dwarf Chinkapin Oak in Bridport to a Cottonwood in Hubbardton having a score of 439. Jeff Freeman continued to maintain the list up until 2008, when he turned his files over to the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation. Jeff is still very engaged with the list and maintains correspondance with big tree hunters.
Jeff Freeman, Vermont Big Tree List caretaker for many years, with a large shagbark hickory.
National Champion European Larch, Northfield
How to Measure A Big Tree
The Vermont Register of Big Trees uses American Forests' formula to determine whether a tree is a champion.
There are three measurements that we look for:
Circumference in inches taken 4.5 above the ground usually. Root swell or very low branches may require adjustment.
Height in feet from ground to highest branch. There are many ways to measure the height of a tree. One of the easier methods is to use a metal tape measure laid out on the ground near the tree or up against the tree to show either 10 or 20 feet as a reference. Then, using thumb and index finger at arms length one can transfer that known measure up the tree. Just add up the number of lengths times either 10 or 20 feet.
Crown Spread: Extend outer crown edge down to ground and measure longest and shortest diameter. Average these.
Once you have these measurements, calculate the tree's total points by using the formula below.
If you have further questions on tree measurements, visit American's Forests FAQ page.
The National Register of Big Trees is maintained by American Forests, a non-profit citizens' conservation organization founded in 1875. Since 1940, citizens have helped the organization find the largest of 826 species across the United States.