Pennsylvania’s Champion Trees

Pennsylvania State Coordinator, Scott Wade

From being one of the original 13 colonies and the site of the Battle of Gettysburg to becoming an industrial powerhouse in the 20th century, Pennsylvania has played a key role in shaping America’s story. It’s no wonder that Scott Wade enjoys studying genealogy and the history of the commonwealth.

As a stay-at-home dad and a certified arborist, he finds time to balance his family life with working part time at Longwood Gardens and running Pennsylvania’s Champion Tree Program. Scott has been the state coordinator of the program since 2006 and works diligently in recognizing the state’s biggest and culturally significant trees.

Pennsylvania is home to nine national champions, with three of those champs belonging to Scott and his co-nominators: the ashe magnolia, yellow cucumbertree and Allegheny chinkapin. For someone who enjoys hiking, camping, hunting and snowboarding, it makes since that he would go big-tree hunting at least once a month. He says, “I meet many interesting people who love their trees. Unexpectedly finding a new tree when not really looking for one is always exciting.”

Part of his big-tree adventures includes hunting for Penn Charter trees, trees thought to be alive when William Penn arrived in 1682. In 1932, a book was published documenting these trees that were not only significant in age, but also remarkable in size. The book was updated in 1982, and Scott has visited most of these trees, recognizing them in the state’s big-tree register.

Sacred Oak of Oley Valley. Courtesy: Pennsylvania Champion Tree Program

Some of his favorite trees are the state champion London Grove white oak which is believed to be about 300 years old and grows at a Quaker meeting house dating back to 1714. The other is the former national champion Chinkapin oak, or Sacred Oak, that is connected to the Delaware Indians of Oley Valley and is estimated to be around 500 years old. The biggest-single-stem tree in the state is the Winfield Sycamore with a circumference of 338 inches, a height of 92 feet and crown spread of 121 feet, giving the state champion a total of 380 points. The biggest-multiple-stem trees are the Halifax Cottonwood and the Risser Sycamore, both more than 500 points.

When asked about the future of the program, Scott says “We recently added a tallest-tree category, and we have been showcasing many examples of big trees, instead of just the champion and co-champions. Look for a list of trees to geocache in the future!”

The Pennsylvania Champion Tree Program is sponsored by the Pennsylvania Forestry Association, one of the oldest green organizations in the United States. The association recently celebrated its 125th anniversary and published an anniversary edition of the big-tree register. Wade hopes to publish another register in 2016. You can support the program by purchasing the register or making a donation to the Pennsylvania Forestry Association at www.pabigtrees.com.