Missourians looking for an interesting weekend outing should think about visiting state-champion trees now, while their full size is clearly visible.
The Missouri Department of Conservation has certified 116 trees as being the biggest known examples of their species in the Show-Me State.
Each tree receives a score based on its height in feet, one-quarter of its average spread in feet and its trunk circumference in inches.
"Some of these trees are truly spectacular," said Donna Baldwin, who administers the State Champion Tree Program. "They really are worth taking a trip to see."
One example is the state-champion bur oak, located beside a road in southern Boone County.
With a total score of 410, it not only is Missouri's biggest bur oak, but the largest of its kind in the nation.
Its trunk measures 287 inches in circumference. It stands 90 feet tall and spreads over an area 130 feet across.
Missouri's other three national-champion trees are a pumpkin ash in Mississippi County, an Ozark chinkapin in Barry County and an eastern wahoo in St. Louis County.
Missouri's biggest champion tree is an American sycamore in Polk County that stands 94 feet tall, has a circumference of 333 inches and an average spread of 120 feet for a total score of 457.
Baldwin said the state-champion bur oak is impressive in the summertime because it stands alone in the Missouri River bottom near McBain.
However, it is just as beautiful after leaf-fall, when its hundreds of twisted branches are visible against the sky. Winter is the best time to appreciate champion trees that are situated among other trees, whose foliage obscures the record trees' outlines.
Details about the State Champion Tree Program are available at mdc.mo.gov/conmag/2002/12/50.htm.
Champion trees are located in 47 counties in every region of the state.
A full list is available at mdc.mo.gov/forest/IandE/MOChampionTrees/.
For a printed list of champion trees or information about the location of those on public land, contact Donna Baldwin, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180, phone 573-751-4115, ext. 3111, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Missourians also can contact Baldwin to nominate new champion trees.