The Landis Arboretum has successfully concluded a Big Tree Search. The Search sought to identify new Champion Trees in the listing of trees native to the State provided by the NYS DEC, as well as the largest over all tree regardless of species, native or non-native. The Arboretum received over 34 nominations from more than 10 counties in NYS. (Scroll down to view pictures of ths year's entrants.)
The Search was generously underwritten by Bill and Roberta Winsman.
In 2022, Arboretum Executive Director and Certified Arborist Fred Breglia documented NYS’s biggest native tree, a whopper of an Eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides), in Schaghticoke. This year, Breglia discovered NYS’s biggest non-native tree, a giant weeping willow (Salix babylonica) growing in the Schoharie Valley. The willow also takes home the prize as the largest tree in Schoharie County.
There are four other locally discovered NYS Champion Tree contenders in Schoharie and Montgomery counties, including a “Devil’s Walking Stick” (Aralia spinosa), located at Landis Arboretum, and a behemoth butternut (Juglans cinerea) in the Cobleskill area. A supersized silver maple discovered in the town of Tribes Hill is not only a State co-champion contender, but its dimensions make it the overall largest tree in Montgomery County. Another highlight is a massive “Tree of Heaven” (Ailanthus altissima) in Schenectady County nominated by Chris Cash, retired Plant Science Professor at SUNY Cobleskill and longtime big tree hunter. Although the NYS DEC big tree register does not recognize trees that are not native, this tree is one of the largest documented invasive trees in NYS.
This year’s Search documented a total number of 14 state champion and co-champion contenders throughout the State. Matt Kane of Ticonderoga submitted a nomination for a white pine (Pinus strobus) that may be a co-champion contender. Brian Kelley of the Gathering Growth Foundation in Downstate NY nominated several trees that are looking like state champion and co-champion contenders. In Columbia County, Dan McKenna submitted a Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) that supersedes the current state champion. Joe Sullivan of Western NY submitted a shagbark hickory (Carya ovata) that is likely to be a new state champion.
Winners of this year’s Big Tree Search and the winning trees they nominated are:
- Landis Arboretum: Devil’s Walking Stick
- Dan McKenna: Douglas Fir
- Dawn & Dan Carter: Northern Catalpa
- Joe Sullivan: Shagbark Hickory
- Matt Kane: Eastern White Pine
- Alison Platt: Ginkgo
- Chris Cash: Tree of Heaven
- Nick Fischer: Silver Maple
- Fred Breglia: Butternut, Silver Maple, and Weeping Willow
- Brian Kelley: Sassafras, Cucumber Magnolia, Red Oak, White Oak, Swamp White Oak, Box Elder, and Butternut
- Patricia Schwartz: Silver Maple
- Steve Whitesell: Pawpaw
- Nolan Marciniec: Ginkgo
Those who discovered these trees will take home a cash award and a handcrafted wooden plaque -- and, of course, bragging rights. Everyone who submitted a nomination form to the search will receive a free one-year membership to the Landis Arboretum. The mission of the Landis Arboretum is to foster an appreciation of trees and their critical importance in our environment. This year’s Big Tree Search brought together a state-wide community to celebrate that mission.