By Katrina Marland

When the National Register of Big Trees is released, it is always exciting. There are new species and new champions, often with amazing proportions and incredible stories. Unfortunately, this often means that other champion trees have lost their crowns — usually a bitter pill to swallow for those involved in achieving it in the first place. From the person who discovers, measures and nominates the tree to the landowner of the property on which it sits, a dethroned tree can be tough to take. New champions also mean another win or loss in a “sport” that has become competitive on many levels, with individuals, counties and even states playing tug-of-war over who has the most champions to their name. So let’s take a look at a few of the champions that will be losing their titles when the spring edition of the Register comes out later this month. Keep in mind that champions are determined using a pretty simple equation: circumference (in inches) + height (in feet) + 1/4th of the average crown spread (in feet) = total points.

dethroned national champion black locust tree
The former national champion black locust tree in Livingston, New York (Photo credit: The Davey Tree Expert Company)

First up, there’s the valley oak. The 2011 champion in Tulare, California — with 409 points — is losing its crown to a monster of a tree in Mendocino, which has a whopping total of 628 points. I believe they call that a knockout punch.

Next, we have the black locust champion in Livingston, New York. This tree is losing its title for a rather sad reason: No one has re-measured it. To be eligible for the National Register, trees have to be re-measured at least once every 10 years to be sure that they’re still alive and well. Our state coordinators and tree hunters do their best to re-measure their champs, but if they can’t the title is lost. The new black locust champion is located in New Hampshire, and even though its 300 total points place it at 123 less than the previous champ, it retains the title — for now.

Another champion all too familiar with the 10-year rule is the incense-cedar in California. This massive 645-point tree was dethroned last year because of it. But this year, it was re-measured and will regain its crown, taking out the current 283-point champion in Henderson, North Carolina.

Then, there’s the American elm. The title for tree has been ping-ponging its way around various states over the years, landing in Michigan for the 2002 Register, Tennessee in 2004 and 2006, then Maryland in 2008 and Ohio in 2010 and 2011. This year it relocates again to Iberville, Louisiana, with a total of 454 points — that’s 38 more than the previous champion.

Curious what other champion trees have lost their crowns and which ones may have replaced them? Stay tuned every Friday as we continue to count down to the release of the spring edition of the 2012 National Register of Big Trees on April 27.