The Diary of a Big Tree Hunter

The Diary of a Big Tree Hunter

A large palm from Hawaii snags the title from two of the island's co-champion palm coconut trees, as Texas (and its 90 national champions) slides into second place, shifting Arizona to third.

While 40 new trees claim the largest measurements of their species, South Carolina loses six of its national champions to the "10-year rule," for failure to document re-measurement within that time.

For trees that want to reach the top - and retain their claim to fame - it's a tough competition out there.

This week, American Forests released its most recent version of the National Register of Big Trees, which now includes nearly 780 national champion and co-champion trees. Although some trees have since left the running after American Forests published the fall 2012 edition late last year, the new Register sheds light on big trees of which we'd otherwise be unaware.

One particular Davey employee tries his best to provide all big trees he discovers the attention they deserve.

Shawn Bruzda, natural resource consulting biologist and urban forester for Davey Resource Group, knows trees - but the big trees are what he's most interested in: "Whenever I'm traveling for Davey, if any large trees are on the way, I usually try to find them," he says.

For approximately 10 years, Bruzda has become familiar with big trees the eastern U.S. region has to offer. He's trekked the terrain, measuring contenders and nominating local specimens to determine the biggest of big trees. From Virginia's National Champion Darlington oak in Maymont Park, to what could possibly be the largest cucumber magnolia tree in the world - a specimen located in Northeast Ohio - Bruzda has awed the size, structure and age of countless big trees.

Although Bruzda has traveled to faraway locations for the sake of admiring a big tree, a majority of his measurements focus on big trees located in Ohio, in support of the state's Big Tree Program. Very similar to American Forests' National Big Tree Program, Ohio's Big Tree Program comprises volunteers who are dedicated to locating, measuring, recording and appreciating the largest tree species in the state.

embracing cucumbertree magnolia
Bruzda stands on the base of North Canton's National and World Champion cucumbertree magnolia and embraces its trunk.

As a "Big Tree Hunter," Bruzda searches for trees that appear to nearly match or surpass the measurements of champion trees. "Big trees often grow in the middle of nowhere - they may exist in backyards, community parks and cemeteries, where their size stands out," Bruzda explains. "Sometimes, fences, creeks and cliffs hinder accurate measurements of the extreme growth we're looking for."

Each Big Tree receives a score based on trunk circumference, crown spread and total height. If the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) thinks a tree measures close to the existing champion, they'll measure the submission, then ODNR foresters and other experts ultimately assess nominated trees to determine their eligibility for Big Tree honors.

"There is a standardized methodology to measuring champion trees, including standard tools," Bruzda says. He uses a clinometer, as well as a 100-foot tape roll to measure the canopy spread and circumference. "I follow ODNR's methodology to the letter to achieve the most accurate results, and it's definitely easier to measure huge trees with two people."

measuring big trees
Each Ohio Big Tree receives a score based on trunk circumference, crown spread and total height. Before volunteers measure champion trees, they must first obtain verbal consent from the property owner.

Bruzda's passion for big trees has earned him respect and trust among ODNR foresters and experts over the years. His dedicated and consistent volunteer work has also provided Ohio's Big Tree Program with several pertinent measurements to update existing champions' statistics.

Bruzda's next mission? Measuring some of the hundreds of submitted state champion trees scattered throughout Ohio's 88 counties.

The Davey Tree Expert Company sponsors the National Register of Big Trees, a continuous collection of national champion nominations. Because anyone can nominate a national champion tree, take a walk in Bruzda's shoes and be on the lookout for impressive trees in your area. You never know, your big tree nomination could dethrone an existing champion and claim its fame in an upcoming edition of the Register.

Add a comment:
Featured or Related Blog Posts
  • From Research to Reality

    Have you ever sat and watched a tree swaying in the wind? Sure, many of us have on a nice, cool, summer day. Now imagine studying that tree's canopy movement using 3-D motion tracking - like a video game showing how a tree, its branch structure and leaves billow in the breeze, analyzing each fraction of movement.

    And what if this type of tool can actually help you determine how stable that tree really is when it's being shaken by air currents or even how much strength is sacrificed in the process?

    What could this do for an arborist? A lot. It can help them better assess safety risks when climbing and pruning a tree. It can even help them determine the entire pruning plan to do what's necessary to restore or retain that tree's normal strength. What does this do for you - the person enjoying the tree on a daily basis? Even more. It means you get to watch that tree grow happier and healthier and stronger for a longer period of time, adding value to a property and providing all the benefits for which trees are best known.

    Read More
  • Show Me the Money!

    OK, I have an experiment I'd like you to try with me.

    Go outside, walk up to one of your trees, gently grab one of the lower branches and carefully uncurl one of the leaves. Now take a close look (I'm envious of those of you in the south and west who can do this now - northerners will have to wait a bit…hang in there, spring is almost here.)

    Do you see something green? (Your answer should be yes.)

    Read More
  • Trees Got Your Back

     

    I have to admit that sometimes in the dead of winter on cold, cold days, I get a bit claustrophobic. I feel cramped. Inside, it feels dark. It's almost like I can't breathe.

    So I put on my thickest coat over some layers and step outside. The first few moments are pretty cold - I curl in on myself, nearly tempted to run back inside to the waiting warmth. But, usually once I start walking, my blood starts flowing and I start to warm up a bit. So I keep going.

    Read More
  • One Tree A Day ...

    In the office last week  I noticed a fellow arborist having a bad day. He was working on some research and was staring at the computer screen all morning, and he had a pretty bad headache. Attempting to ignore it wasn't helping. At lunchtime, he decided to go outside and take a walk through the nearby park.

    Before he left, it seemed like he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. But when he came back, he was a different man. He walked with a lighter step. His headache had faded. He smiled more easily. And he took the rest of the day's challenges in stride, not letting anything frustrate him too quickly.

    It was a complete transformation.

    Read More
  • Keep Coming, Old Man Winter – My Trees Will Keep Me Warm

    In two days, its the official first day of winter, I realize that each day going forward, temperatures will continue to get colder and colder.

    As I pile on the turtlenecks, the cable knit and the wool, I realize I'm adding so many layers it's like adding on half a person in clothes just to stay warm. Needless to say, I'm a "freeze baby," as they call it. It always takes me longer than usual to get warm on the coldest of days, like my body just refuses to adapt to the cooler temperatures.

    It's these nights when I'm curled up inside with a blanket by a warm fire that I think about my trees. Yep, that's right, my trees. They're outside, but they're helping keep me warm in the winter.

    Read More

Request a consultation

What do you need services for?
Sorry, we can’t seem to find the zip code you specified. Our residential tree care offices may not service your area. If you believe this is an error, please try again. Need help? Email us at info@davey.com.
  • Email newsletter
  • Woodchips
*Please fill out all required fields.