The Champion Tree Program
The Champion Tree Program seeks to identify the biggest trees in each species by county, state and nation.
Although it now reaches all 50 states, the program was born in Maryland when the
first state forester, Fred W. Besley, compiled a "Noted Tree List" in 1925.
Besley's point system to rank Champion trees was later adapted by American
Forests for its first register in 1940, when the Champion Tree Program went
national and the Wye Oak, in Talbot County on the Eastern Shore, was recognized
as the largest white oak in the country.
To qualify as a
champion, the tree must have a single stem or trunk for at least 4 1/2 feet
above the ground level and total height of at least fifteen feet. The rule for
the circumference or girth at 4 1/2 feet was established to avoid any abnormal
base swell of the trunk at the ground line. In multiple stem trees, only the
largest single stem shall be measured.
To evaluate the relative size of a tree, the girth in inches and
the height and crown spread in feet are added together to arrive at a number of
points for each tree. This number is then used for comparison of tree sizes in
each species. This system of measuring gives the trunk, the most important part
of the tree, much better weight by giving the girth in inches.
The formula is: Total Points = Circumference (inches) + Height
(feet) + 25% of the average Crown Spread (feet).
The first Big Tree Contest in 1925 had an impressive list of 450 trees
nominated. All of the trees in this list have been officially measured by an
employee of the Maryland DNR Forest Service, who can certify their
The Wye Oak reigned supreme with a point total of 508 when it fell. Its Virginia
successor's total is 427.
Maryland's Big Tree Book