Ohio regains title of biggest buckeye tree

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COLUMBUS – Its towering 77 feet of height and massive 140-inch round trunk has made an Ohio buckeye tree in Huron County the largest of its kind in the country, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry.

After a 30-year hiatus, Ohio regained its state tree champion – it was previously in Kentucky – with the release of the 2004-2005 National Register of Big Trees.

The register is produced by American Forests, a conservation group based in Washington, D.C.

Finding it. “We knew we had a big buckeye tree out there, it was just a matter of finding it,” said John Dorka, chief of the ODNR Division of Forestry.

“We are proud to have the national champion Ohio buckeye back in our state. It’s a fitting recognition since the Ohio buckeye is our state tree.”

Ten other Ohio trees were also recognized as national champion or co-champion trees.

Previous champs. Previously Ohio was home to 14 national champion big trees.

Big Trees are generally found in yards, parks, arboretums and cemeteries where their size stands out.

They are rarely found in dense forests where trees normally don’t develop broad crowns.

Intern found it. The winning Ohio buckeye tree was discovered by Division of Forestry intern Brian Riley in a residential front yard near the Village of Greenwich in Huron County.

Ohio buckeye trees generally grow along streams, mostly in lowland areas.

They are among the first trees to leaf out in the spring and their distinctive leaf structure features five leaflets growing from one stem – like fingers growing from the palm of a hand.

The bark is grayish and ranges from smooth to flaky – with the oldest trees displaying the flakiest bark texture.

Nominations. Ohio nominated 18 trees for this year’s National Register of Big Trees from its own list of more than 200 state-champion big trees.x

The biggest tree in Ohio currently is a 79-feet tall Cucumbertree Magnolia in Stark County with a 288-inch circumference.

State foresters, and dedicated volunteers, look year round for trees that would be eligible for both the state and national list.

A champion tree is “crowned” based on a formula that awards points for height, circumference and crown spread.

The tree with the largest number of points is crowned champion for its species. Trees within five points are considered co-champions.

Registry. American Forests created the register in 1940 as a way to champion forest conservation by recognizing outstanding specimens of the nation’s native and naturalized trees.

The ODNR Division of Forestry is charged with ensuring healthy forests and good forestry products in the state. One hundred years of good forest management has increased the amount of tree cover across Ohio from only 12 percent in 1900 to more than 33 percent today.

There are 826 native and naturalized species eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Big Trees.

The current list totals 889 champs and co-champs, representing 738 of those 826 species.

Other states. Florida again has the most national champion trees with 163, followed by California with 102, and Arizona with 84.

Other notable trees in the list include a 570-point Monterey pine near Carmel, California, and a common jujube, growing on the grounds of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. – the capital city’s first true national champion

The giant sequoia, “General Sherman,” in California’s Sequoia National Park, remains the nation’s largest tree and the world’s largest living thing.

It’s one of only three trees that have reigned on the Register since its inception. The other two from the “Class of 1940” are a western juniper in Stanislaus National Forest, California and a Rocky Mountain juniper in Cache National Forest, Utah.

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