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U.S. Champion Tree Falls, Loses Title

Charles County, Md. (March 6, 2012) - Maryland no longer holds the title for United States Champion American basswood. The tree, which was located within Chapman State Park in Charles County, was recently discovered lying on the ground. Its death is likely due to Maryland’s batch of rough weather over the past few months.

Photo of the fallen tree before and after

The tree became the U.S. Champion in 2010 after it was discovered by Roderick Simmons, a local biologist doing a survey of the Park for Friends of Chapman State Park and the Chapman Forest Foundation.

“I believe this huge specimen was likely at least 200 years old,” said Simmons. “Unfortunately it couldn’t withstand the combination of Hurricane Irene in August and the unusually heavy rainfall that followed in early September.”

Upon the trees initial discovery in 2010, Simmons and fellow researcher Greg Zell measured it in at 135 feet tall, 20 feet, 3 inches around and with an average crown spread of 90 feet, equaling a total point value of 401. A press release and photo of the tree at that time can be found here.

The fallen tree was measured lying on the ground and found to be 150 feet, taller than it had measured in 2010. If the tree were still alive, the total points would be increased to 416. Maryland now no longer holds the U.S. title. As far as the State title for this tree species, an American basswood in Howard County - a previous Maryland State Champion - has recaptured the title with a total point value of 325.

The American basswood, or Tilia Americana, is native to counties in Maryland north and west of I-95 but have been planted throughout the State. The Maryland database has large examples in many counties south and east of their native area. The tree species has large, heart-shaped, dark green leaves, making it an attractive and popular backyard tree. However, this type of tree needs a large area to grow to its full size, and when it matures the tree can present some significant issues for the homeowner due to falling branches and trunk rot. Therefore, most landscapers and arborists do not recommend them.

The Big Tree Program originated in Maryland in 1925, went national in 1940, and is run by American Forests, Each state has a State Coordinator who collects data, measures trees, and biannually submits certain trees to American Forests as potential National Champions. For more information, visit

The universal “point” system was developed by Maryland’s first State Forester, Fred Besley. The formula is: circumference in inches + height in feet + one fourth of the average crown spread in feet. If you think you have a Maryland Big Tree or for a copy of the Maryland Big Tree List, contact John Bennett at or 410-287-5980.

   March 6, 2012

Contact: Josh Davidsburg
410-260-8002 office I 410-507-7526 cell

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is the state agency responsible for providing natural and living resource-related services to citizens and visitors. DNR manages nearly one-half million acres of public lands and 17,000 miles of waterways, along with Maryland's forests, fisheries and wildlife for maximum environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. A national leader in land conservation, DNR-managed parks and natural, historic and cultural resources attract 11 million visitors annually. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority. Learn more at