Pike County in search of big trees

Published 11:20 pm Monday, November 4, 2013

The Pike County Treasure Forest Association is on the lookout for that big tree that would qualify for the Alabama Champion Tree Program.

The statewide program is a listing of the largest known specimens of particular tree species, native or introduce, in Alabama.

“All land owners should be aware of the Alabama Champion Tree Program because they are the ones who know where these big trees are,” said Carter Sanders, president Pike County Treasure Forest Association. “Most of these champion trees are on private property and are not out by the road. They are usually in the backside of nowhere so the landowners would be the ones would know about them.”

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Because these trees are in places that are not easily accessible, they have been left behind.

“They probably were too big to log out so they got left behind to grow,” Sanders said. “You never know when a tree might be a Champion Tree.”

Presently, Pike County has one tree listed, a Southern Red Oak, owned by Hunter J. Flack. It was listed in 1987.

The Alabama Champion Tree has a circumference of 300 feet and reaches 66 feet in height and has a spread of 79 feet.

Sanders said hopes are to include the Southern Red Oak in a forestry tour in the spring.

Brian Hendricks, Alabama Forestry Commission Forest Inventory & Analysis coordinator, said that the Alabama Champion Tree Program was established in 1970 by the Alabama Forestry Commission.

“The program was modeled on the National Register of Big Trees, which was started in 1940,” Hendricks said. “The goal of Alabama’s program is to record, heighten awareness of and preserve the largest tree specimens in the state. When the program began, 28 champion trees were identified. Today, there are 159 Champion Trees.”

Once a champion is identified, its owner and nominator receive a certificate and a permanent maker is placed near the base of the tree. Former champions are removed from the list as new, larger champions are identified and recorded.

“To be eligible for the program, a tree must be a species that is recognized as being native or naturalize in Alabama,” Hendricks said. “The AFC uses a formula developed by ‘American Forests’ to determine the size of a tree. A tree receives one point for each inch of circumference, plus one point for each foot of height and one point for each four feet of the average crown spread. Trees that are measured during the same year and are within five total points of each other are identified as co-champions.”

Anyone can nominate a tree for the Alabama Champion Tree Program by completing an on-line nomination form found on the AFC website at www.forestry.alabama.gov. An AFC forester will be responsible for collecting the tree’s measurements and other pertinent information.

Nominations must be received no later than the first day of June to be considered for the year in which the tree is nominated.