The former white ash champion may have a chance to retake its throne when new measurements are taken.
Rock Elm (350 points): This tree is only half an hour’s drive from the last stop (the Green Ash champion). After making your way to Dowagiac, Michigan, take M-62 southeast 9 miles to the town of Cassopolis. Stay on M-62 and drive south another 1.5 miles to Brownsville Road. Go east on Brownsville Road for 2.75 miles. The tree is on the north side of the road.
White Ash (420 points): This former champion was dethroned by the 10-year-rule, but may regain national champion status with new measurements. From the Palisades Interstate Parkway going north, take Exit 4 onto US-9W (left off the exit ramp), and go north 2.4 miles to veer left onto Highland Avenue. At the triangle junction in 0.1 miles keep right and you will see the tree immediately on your left in front of the Coppolas Tuscan Grill.
Pumpkin Ash (307 points) and Swamp Chestnut Oak (435 points): Both of these trees are located in an 80-acre patch of remnant Mississippi River floodplain virgin forest protected in Big Oak Tree State Park in the extreme southeastern corner of Missouri. Here you get the bonus of two national champion trees. The Pumpkin Ash sign is posted on the boardwalk trail. Unfortunately, the Swamp Chestnut Oak received extensive damage from recent storms, but the impressive main trunk and one major limb survive.
Red Maple (405 points): This tree requires a bit of adventure, but is well worth the effort to experience a true, old growth red maple. In Great Smoky Mountains National Park, near the northeastern corner on the Tennessee side, take the Maddron Bald Trail south on the trail for 430 feet. Look to the west for a large tuliptree that leans away from the trail. From the tuliptree, follow a compass bearing of 257E for about 65 yards to a stand of old growth maples. The champion is obvious.
Live Oak (536 points): The Village Sentinel is currently our largest oak. It is the pride of the Baptist Village Retirement Community in Waycross, Georgia. Just drive up to the gate at 2650 Carswell Avenue on the west side of town, and tell the guard you want to see the big oak.
Eastern Redcedar (310 points): You’ve never seen an Eastern Redcedar like this one before. It dominates the cemetery of Lone Hill Methodist Church, 1428 Cross Road, just northeast of Douglas, Georgia (which is only 35 miles from the Live Oak). From Highway 32 in Douglas, go northeast on US-221 about 2.7 miles to turn left on Cross Road and go 1.1 miles to the cemetery on your left.
Gumbo-Limbo (237 points): Also called “tourist trees,” because they stand in the sun, turn red, and peel, the champion is located in De Soto National Memorial Park just north in Bradenton, Florida. From I-75 take Exit 220 and go west on State Road 64 for 12 miles to a right (north) onto 75th Street West, which dead-ends at the park in 2.5 miles. The tree is right in front of the visitor center.
Florida Strangler Fig (485 points): Strangler fig seeds are deposited on some other tree, like a fanpalm, by birds. The seed sprouts and grows long aerial roots that eventually reach the ground. Eventually it may engulf the host tree, which usually dies and rots away, and then develop its own intricate trunk. This tree is located in the Bill Sadowski Park at 17555 SW 79th Street, Miami, Florida. Take a 10-minute walk through a beautiful example of a pristine hardwood hammock to the canal at the end of the nature trail, where you will find the tree on the left.
Whit Bronaugh hails from Eugene, Oregon.
This article was published in the Summer 2009 issue of American Forests magazine.