Giant trees are always an impressive site. Every year tree enthusiasts trek across each state to locate the largest trees by species. Since 1940, the Champion Trees National Register has been published by the American Forest organization to identify and preserve these living monuments. The largest champion tree by volume is the famous General Sherman giant sequoia in Sequoia National Park in Tulare County, California. The "General", estimated to be 2,300 to 2,700 years-old, is about 275 feet tall and 100 feet in circumference at the ground. General Sherman is only one of the 650 species of champion trees are registered at: https://www.americanforests.org/get-involved/americas-biggest-trees/champion-trees-national-register/.
Missouri also participates in the state champion tree program, which is administered by the Department of Conservation. A point value system is used to determine champion trees, which includes the sum of the trunk circumference measured at 4.5 feet above the ground, tree height, and one-fourth of the crown width. Anyone can nominate a tree for state champion consideration by the Missouri Department of Conservation. However, the tree must be native to Missouri and can't be a horticultural cultivar, a naturalized or exotic species, or a hybrid.
The largest tree in Missouri is a bald cypress located on private property in New Madrid county. This tree is 111 feet tall, and is 27 feet in circumference, with a 456-point value. Another easily viewed state champion is a burr oak located just off Burr Oak Road near McBaine, Missouri (above). It is currently tied with another burr oak in Kentucky for the largest of the species in the United States. The McBaine burr oak has survived floods, droughts, and numerous storms and is thought to be 380 to 400 years-old. On October 23, 2020, the McBaine burr oak was once again struck by lightening and was found burning within the trunk. A large scar remains on the trunk where the tree was injured (below).
Champion trees can be found across Missouri on both private and public property. However, many of the champions easily viewed on public property are found in the southeastern part of the state and are oak species (Table 1). A complete listing of Missouri state champions and photos of these trees can be found the Missouri Department of Conservation website at: https://mdc.mo.gov/trees-plants/missouri-state-champion-trees.
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REVISED: November 4, 2020