Help wanted identifying Vermont’s biggest trees

MILTON TREE WARDEN Kris Dulmer stands next to an eastern cottonwood in Colchester, the biggest tree of all species in Vermont.
Photo courtesy of the Vermont Urban and Community Forestry program

When hiking in Vermont’s woods, have you ever been wowed by a larger-than-average tree? Or perhaps you have a mammoth specimen growing in your own backyard. If so, you may be looking at a champion tree, one worth adding to the state’s big tree database.

The Vermont Big Tree Program is an ongoing effort to locate, measure and record the largest trees in the state. Fifty-three species are currently listed in the database, twice as many as when the list was first created in 1972 by Jeff Freeman, a now-retired Castleton University botany professor. Today, the database is maintained by the Vermont Urban and Community Forestry program, a partnership of University of Vermont Extension and the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation.

Nominations for both native and introduced species are accepted from January through June each year. From July to December, a team of trained Forests, Parks and Recreation staff, consulting foresters and tree wardens conduct site visits to measure nominated trees. They assign points to each tree using a formula that includes measurements of the circumference, height and crown spread in accordance with the American Forests’ National Register of Champion Trees criteria.

If you think your tree might be eligible for inclusion, first view the list of confirmed big tree champions and list vacancies. A searchable database, formula to calculate size, nomination form and other details can be found at

The listing for each tree, even if located on private property, includes an image, measurements and date of last official visit. Location information is provided if the tree is on public land or viewable from the road or other public property if on private land.

The biggest tree in the state is an eastern cottonwood in Colchester. Other top contenders are a silver maple (Brattleboro), sugar maple (Westminster) and northern red oak (Shaftsbury).

SAM SCHNESKI OF the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation took the official measurements of a 92-foot-tall sycamore in Harmonyville, the biggest of its species in the state.
Photo courtesy of the Vermont Urban and Community Forestry program

Vermont has three national champions: sweet crabapple (Randolph), sweet birch (Chester) and roundleaf shadbush (Clarendon). To learn about these trees and to view the list of more than 500 national champions, check out the American Forests’ database at

For more information about the Vermont Big Tree Program, contact Gwen Kozlowski at or (802) 651-8343, ext. 506.

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