This site is for people who like plants -- growers, enthusiasts, aesthetes, novices and professionals, those who appreciate wild things and those who appreciate the cultivated. I garden in Chelsea, and I've been visiting people's yards for 20+ years in the course of my work. My goal is to make this blog a community project, so if you share my interests, please consider becoming a participant and contributing content -- Guerin. Info:

Monday, April 4, 2011

The really big big trees

A listing of "Michigan Big Trees" just crossed my desk (actually, the list had been at my feet under the desk for a couple weeks, and I just now rediscovered it while cleaning up), and what kind of tree do you guess is the 'biggest' on record in Michigan? I'll give you some choices: it is an elm, ash, willow, oak, maple, beech, or basswood. The correct answer is . . .

Black willow clocking in at 114' in height, with a diameter of more than 10'. OK, the way trees are measured creates a bias in favor of specimens with multiple trunks*, but still you can be sure this is a massive tree.

The tallest? Red maple at 179'. That puts it up there with your average western douglas-fir. Around Ann Arbor, anything over 110' is really tall.

What else makes it towards the top of the big tree list? Other than additional willows, the maples and oaks reign supreme, followed by green ash, white pine, american elm and tulip-tree. 100 years ago white pine was probably near or at the top of the list, but the great mass of virgin timber is long gone.

Ann Arbor makes the list, as it hosts the largest chinkapin oak on record, located at Wurster Park. A picture of its trunk is used as the 'logo' on this site's facebook page. 

Speaking of big tree lists, it was thought that the records for the big trees in Ann Arbor were lost, but a current employee of the city claims he has a copy at home. I'm waiting for him to deliver.

(*Sorry, this may be boring but: the way bigness is usually calculated, a tree with two 12" trunks counts the same as a tree with one 24" trunk. However the single stem tree has almost 60% more basal area, and even more total 'volume.' When I measure trees in Ann Arbor I take the square root of the sum of squares to reduce this bias. In our example, the single-stem tree would be counted as 41% larger than the double-stem tree.)

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