Big trees | Weekend magazine | SehndeWeb

Kris Dulmer of Milton has always loved big trees. And I mean really big trees.

“I have pictures of me from 25 years ago with a cottonwood that was the tallest in Vermont,” he recalls. He recently returned to visit this tree, which had since been struck off the list of tallest trees in Vermont by another poplar elsewhere in the state.

“It occurred to me that no one had measured it for about 30 years,” he said of visiting the tree, and he did. “And of course,” he found, “it was just slightly larger than the newer one.”

He went back to the tree, this time with Gwen Kozlowski, who is part of the Vermont Urban and Community Forestry Program, and made it official, listing the tree with the Vermont Big Tree Program in a database online. line of the largest trees in the state, called champion trees.

The Vermont Big Tree Program is an ongoing effort to locate, measure, and record the largest trees in the state. Currently, 53 species are listed in the database, twice as many as when the list was created in 1972 by Jeff Freeman, professor of botany at the University of Castleton, now retired. Today, the database is maintained by the Vermont Urban and Community Forestry Program, a partnership between the University of Vermont Extension and the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks, and Recreation. Previously, the list was kept on paper, say Kozlowski and Dulmer, but now everything is managed online. When Dulmer finds a large tree, he can enter all the data directly in the field, from his phone.

Applications for native and introduced species are accepted from January to June each year. From July to December, a team of trained forest, parks and recreation employees, consultant foresters and rangers make site visits to measure designated trees. They assign points to each tree using a formula that includes measurements of girth, height, and crown spread, according to American Forests National Champion Tree Registry criteria.

The list of each tree, even if located on private property, includes an image, measurements and the date of the last official visit. Location information is provided if the tree is on public land or if it is visible from the road or other public property if it is on private land. The database can be sorted by public access, so tree lovers can visit the trees to see them in person. But the photos are there too, in the database, for people who can’t visit in person.

Don Lewis of Rupert is over 80 years old and, like Dulmer, he is a big fan of trees. His life included a career in the military and degrees in civil engineering but, as he says, “trees were my priority.”

Lewis had a summer job planting trees in eighth grade with Merck Forest, during which he believes he planted the ponderosa pine which is now the largest example of this species in the state. As an adult, he entered into a friendly competition with the original creator of the Great Tree List, Freeman, to see who could find more trees, and Lewis developed particular expertise in finding the largest examples. typically small species. He remembers even baffling county forester at the time, Jim White, with the largest example of a nannyberry tree in the state, a species unusual enough that even the forester had to research it. But the tree that has marked him the most is the biggest black cherry tree. “It’s an impressive tree with a huge crown,” he recalls.

Anyone can check the online database and see that the tallest tree in the state is a cottonwood in Colchester. Other top contenders are a silver maple in Brattleboro, a sugar maple in Westminster and a northern red oak in Shaftsbury. Vermont also has three national champions: sweet crabapple in Randolph, sweet birch in Chester, and round-leaved shadbush in Clarendon.

Last summer, Dulmer says, he measured the state’s tallest sumac in Alburgh for the Vermont State Register, and it turned out the tree is also on the national champion tree list. .

Dulmer, who works as an arborist and tree warden in Milton, researches and records large trees just for fun, “it’s strictly entertainment,” he says. It’s also a great way, he points out, to draw attention to the trees. “A lot of people say, ‘Oh, a tree,’ he says, and they don’t seem very enthusiastic about it. “But if you say it’s the biggest tree, that gets their attention.”

Kozlowski shares a similar sentiment: “Tall trees are such a great entry point for connecting people to the natural world,” she says. It’s partly an emotional experience, she says, especially for people who have big trees in their own yard. But this attention to trees also brings with it an awareness of the ecosystem services provided by tall trees, including water filtration, clean air, and the shade of their massive trunks and canopies.

Dulmer wonders about the largest cottonwood tree he has found: “How many species of mushrooms are there? How many birds?” he asks rhetorically. And then there’s his feelings for big trees.

“I am a tree fanatic, I live and breathe trees. I constantly look out the window as I drive, looking for anything out of the norm,” he shares.

When in the presence of one, he says, “I feel happy, just in awe.”

If you think you know of a tree that might be eligible for inclusion, first check the list of confirmed Grand Champions and list any vacancies. A searchable database, formula for calculating height, nomination form, and other details can be found at online. Visit the American Forests database at to learn more about the more than 500 national champions.

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