‘Champion trees’ sought for state register

Posted Nov. 11, 2010, at 8:06 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine, more than any other state in the country, is blessed with trees, and the Maine Forest Service, under the Maine Department of Conservation, is looking for the largest specimens.

Nominations for the 2011-12 Maine Register of Big Trees are being sought and can be submitted through Dec. 31. The register then is printed in a book form and also is available online.

“State champion big trees capture our imagination for their size and strength,” said Jan Ames Santerre, director of the Maine Forest Service’s Project Canopy, which handles the register.

The Maine Forest Service has been compiling a list of the largest known specimens of native and naturalized trees in the state since 1968. The 2009-10 register contains 159 trees, representing 149 species. Of these, the MFS has been notified that four are dead, including the New England Champion American elm, located in Yarmouth, known affectionately as “Herbie” and determined to be 217 years old at its demise.

About 30 to 40 valid nominations are received each year, Santerre said. The candidates then are measured by MFS foresters or by Santerre. “There is quite a bit of competition,” she said.

To determine a champion, each tree is given a score based on a formula that adds circumference in inches, height in feet, and one-quarter of the crown spread. In addition to 159 state champions, Maine has two trees that are tops in their species and on the national register.

One is a yellow birch in Wayne with 343 points. That tree is 242 inches in circumference, or just under 6½ feet in diameter, 82 feet tall and has a 74-foot average crown spread.

A bigtooth aspen located in Appleton still is listed on the 2010 national register, Santerre said. Its status is questionable, though, as it was showing severe decline in 2008. That tree had a total of 275 points, a 169-inch circumference, 92 feet in height and a crown spread of 51 feet.

Previously, a white pine located in Morrill was the national champion for its species, with 385 points. In the most recent edition of the national register, however, the state champion was knocked off by a rival tree in Cheshire, N.H., with 414 points.

“There are some very big trees on the list,” Santerre said. “Most of them are true to their species form, which isn’t necessarily true in general.”

The project director pointed out that Maine has a lot of space to grow trees, and many forest trees, which allows good shaping for form.

“But most of our champions are in city parks or cemeteries where they have been nurtured for years,” she said.

For more information about Maine’s Register of Big Trees and to receive a copy of the 2011-12 register when available, contact Jan Santerre, big tree coordinator at the Maine Forest Service, 22 State House Station, Augusta 04333 or call 800-367-0223.

To view the register, go to the Project Canopy website at http://projectcanopy.maine.gov.

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