It’s January. It’s cold and the last thing on most of our minds is gardening. For the hardy Minnesota gardeners who are out there, you have probably already started to seed things like onions and leeks for this coming summer’s garden space. You may not be gardening outside but you are inside gardening under lights. It is a good time of the year for reading about gardening, studying about gardening, thinking about what you want in your garden for next year. I am always on the outlook for something interesting to read about. In this case, instead of going over to the U of M Extension webpage, follow the link to Minnesota’s largest trees. You can find it on the Minnesota DNR webpage https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/trees_shrubs/bigtree/coniferous.html.
It is probably more of a curiosity thing than anything but as a person who grew up with a huge cottonwood tree that her great grandpa had planted as a sapling on the farm that I grew up on, this has me thinking about big trees and that one in particular. I am not sure if the cottonwood tree is still there and as many of us know, cottonwood trees can get really big. 2018 brought to mind several conifer trees that qualified in how tall they are and how large the spread of their branches are. According to the webpage, there were four trees that received some extra attention for just being big. A Northern White Cedar was nominated in Koochiching County with a girth of 186 inches and a height of 40 feet. If you like Balsam Fir trees, there is a grand old tree in St. Louis County that is 74″ around and has a height of 80 feet. Hennepin County has a Hemlock that stands out in its sheer size. It is 74′ tall and 87 inches around. Hemlocks are a rather unusual conifer because it is Minnesota’s only conifer that loses it leaves in the winter. Minnesota also has the National Champion tree which is located in St. Louis County. This Jack Pine measures in 73 feet tall and a girth of 82 inches! Typically, Jack Pines grow to about 60 feet in height. It must be sitting in some really good soil to grow this big.
Deciduous trees are not to be outdone by their coniferous partners either. Minnesota also sports the National Champion deciduous tree as well. In Kanabec County, there is a lovely Bigtooth Aspen that stands at a whopping 111 feet and a girth of 116 inches. That is one big tree! There are a couple of American Basswoods that stand right around the 60 foot mark in height in Carver and Wright county as well as a 95′ American Basswood in Kanabec County, once again. In Hennepin County there is a Boxelder standing at the 50 foot mark and a Hackberry that is more in our area, Waseca County, that stands at 84 feet tall. Hennepin County also has a Sugar Maple that is 56 feet tall and Wabasha County has a Chinkapin Oak that stands at 18′. In comparison to the others, the Chinkapin Oak might not seem really big but Oak trees grow slowly so seeing any kind of oak that is this tall is quite something. In 2017 there was a Black Willow that was named National Champion. This tree was located in Washington County. It had a height of 91′ and a girth of 315 inches. The canopy of the three measured at 75 feet across.
You can see a complete list of the National Register at https://www.americanforests.org/get-involved/americas-biggest-trees/champion-trees-national-register/. So, why did someone go to all of this trouble to get sizes and measurements of all of these outstanding trees? They would like you to start planting your prize winning tree in your yard or garden too.