A 121-foot tall Bigtooth Aspen, discovered growing along a popular hiking trail in Rocks State Park last week, has been crowned a new Maryland State Champion as part of the Maryland Big Tree Program.
The Maryland Big Tree Program is an effort to measure and catalog the largest trees of each species within the state. Similar programs exist throughout the country and use a universal point system allowing big trees across America to be compared and national champions to be exalted.
There are currently 16 State Champion trees living in Harford County, one of which, a bitternut hickory at the Harford County Equestrian Center, is also the current U.S. Champion. That impressive total is good enough to put Harford County in third place among Maryland counties, but is less than half of the total number of state champion trees found in Montgomery County (36) and Prince George’s County (33).
Dan Wilson, the Forest Hill resident and Maryland Big Tree Program volunteer who found and measured the Bigtooth Aspen at Rocks, says he has aspirations for Harford County to start moving up the list – but to do so he’ll need help from local residents.
“I love Harford County, as I know its residents do, and my hope is to put Harford County in that number 1 spot. I also want to make Harford’s residents aware of the Maryland Big Tree Program so that they will contact me if they feel they have a large species of tree,” he said.
The Big Tree Program works when people nominate individual trees, which must pass a series of requirements for trunk circumference, height, and crown spread. Those factors, when plugged into an equation and added up, produce the official “score” for the tree.
“The tree is not harmed or damaged, only measured. It’s a very quick process that may enable the tree owner to gloat that they have the largest tree in the county or state,” Wilson added.
Wilson said Harford County has a tough challenge ahead in catching up to Montgomery and Prince George’s counties because those jurisdictions have built funding for big tree programs into their budgets. There are also a number of retired U.S. and state government foresters and plant experts in the area, and they are always nominating new trees, he added.
Wilson encouraged anyone interested in the Maryland Big Tree Program to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The public is allowed and encouraged to visit Bigtooth Aspen in Rocks State Park because it resides on public land. The tree is located 300 feet up the white trail from the Chrome Hill Road parking area on the right side. It is marked with white paint as a trail marker.
Cecil County Forestry Board member John Bennett, manager of the Maryland Association of Forest Conservancy District Boards, which oversees the Maryland Big Tree Program, said other Harford County Champion Trees on public lands include an American beech in Susquehanna State Park, a bitternut hickory at the Harford County Equestrian Center, pignut & shagbark hickories in Palmer State Park, a Carolina silverbell at Ladew Gardens, a sugar maple on a State Highway Administration right-of-way at the corner of Routes 152 and 147, a common pear at Friends Community Park, a swamp white oak in the City of Aberdeen, a franklinia in the City of Havre de Grace, and a Kentucky coffeetree at Swan Harbor Farm.
Bennett said several Harford County Champion Trees are located on Aberdeen Proving Ground property, and the remainder are on privately-owned land, so information on their location cannot be released.
From the Department of Natural Resources:
New State Champion Tree Discovered At Rocks State Park
A new Maryland State Champion Bigtooth Aspen, or Populus grandidentata, was discovered and measured September 20 at Rocks State Park in Harford County by Dan Wilson, a volunteer with the Maryland Big Tree Program (MBTP).
The tree is located along the “white” trail of Rocks State Park, about 300 feet from Chrome Hill Road. It has a circumference of 6 feet 5 inches, a height of 121 feet and an average crown spread of 45.5 feet. Its total point value is 209. The previous champion, which is privately owned in Washington County, had a point value of 200.
Bigtooth aspens do not grow very large in Maryland as the hardwoods like oak, yellow poplar and sycamore will crowd them out. However in colder climates, where hardwood growth is limited, they can get much larger. The current U.S. Champion is in Maine at 275 points. The Maryland tree is the second tallest in the U.S., exceeded only by the Minnesota State Champion at 123 feet.
The Big Tree Program originated in Maryland in 1925, went national in 1940, and is run by American Forests. Each state has a coordinator who collects data, measures trees, and biannually submits certain trees to American Forests as potential National Champions. For more information, visit dnr.state.md.us/forests/trees/bigtree.asp.
The universal ‘point’ system was developed by Maryland’s first State Forester, Fred Besley. The formula is: circumference in inches + height in feet + one fourth of the average crown spread in feet.