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How to measure a champion tree

By Margaret Tiano
Posted Wednesday, February 27, 2013

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Pittsboro, NC - Thanks, N.A. Booko, for your descriptions of trees that inspire you (Chatlist #4559). As you guessed, there is a standard method for measuring trees that are being nominated for champion tree status. You will find descriptions of the award categories and links to instructions on this Grand Trees of Chatham web page.

Anyone who would like more info or help measuring trees, please email

An interesting historical note is that the standard method was developed for rating trees being grown and harvested for timber. This means the rating system favors trees that are tall with a big trunk (say, a tulip poplar) over trees that form a broad crown spread (say, a live oak). Therefore, there are new award categories that recognize the grace and beauty of a spectacular crown as well as other attributes that are exemplary in some way.

The hike GTOC did at White Pines Nature Preserve recently featured good examples of this. The white pines there are not particularly large for white pines in NC, but this large a collection of native white pines in Chatham County is a rare find.

Tall tree tale of the day: The tallest native broadleaf tree in North America is in North Carolina. It is a tulip poplar in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. When measured in April 2011, its height was 191.9 feet with a diameter at breast height of 67.8 inches. You can read about the adventures of big-tree hunters in National Parks Traveler.

See you in the woods!

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How to measure a champion tree

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