I think it’s hard not to feel both humbled and uplifted when you’re standing near a very big, very old tree. Champion trees, those ancient “giants” among their kind, are something to notice, admire and celebrate. For some trees, the biggest they’ll ever be is rather puny. But given their genetic options, you’ve got to be impressed by those that achieve record size among their equals.
While Missouri may not be home to the giant sequoia, we do have our share of pretty darned big trees. Three, in fact, are title holders for national champion trees. These records include an eastern wahoo in St. Louis County and a pumpkin ash and swamp chestnut oak in Big Oak Tree State Park in Mississippi County.
Most people don’t know an oak from a wahoo, so this may be a bit too particular for some tastes. But if you want an excuse to scout the woods and to set a record, why not try doing it through some natural sleuthing? Missouri has hundreds of champions within the state’s record trees. And there are several trees that you can find in Missouri that have no national records associated with them. Those include sweet gum, water elm and northern pin oak.
There’s a lot to learn about Missouri’s champion trees. If you like the search and the competition, you should take a look at what the program offers. If you don’t much care about finding the oldest or biggest, though, it’s still an interesting thing to consider that some of these plants could outlive you by a long shot. Or if you have a child, niece, nephew or young neighbor, consider the magic of what looking for the trees could mean to them. You may not see the biggest, but when you’re 2 to 3 feet tall, most trees are giants anyway.
As I was searching the Web for some links on big trees, I came across this quote that seems to touch on the feeling a champion tree can inspire: “Trees are the earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven.” - Rabindranath Tagore, Fireflies, 1928