AFC Deems Autauga County Magnolia Co-Champion Tree

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The quest to find "champion" trees continued to be a high priority for many Alabamians in 2014 as a total of 45 new trees were nominated for this prestigious honor. Of the 45 nominations, 11 trees achieved the status of CHAMPION in 2014. One of the new champions, a southern shagbark hickory, has a good chance of being declared a national champion later this year!

With the addition of these new champion trees and the subtraction of champions that had died, Alabama now has a total of 147 champions distributed throughout 48 of its 67 counties. Baldwin County holds claim to the most champions in the state with 16, followed by Madison and Wilcox counties which have 12 champions each.

Of the 11 new champions, eight are outright champions while three are co-champions. Co-champions are trees whose total scores are in close proximity of each other. The new 2014 champion trees, along with their nominators and owners, are listed below:

TREE SPECIES COUNTY NOMINATOR OWNER
 Birch, River  Lee  Patrick Thompson  Michael Murray
 Elm, Siberian  DeKalb  Daniel Green Joseph West
 Hickory, Mockernut  Coosa  John Goff  John T. Goff Family LLC
 Hickory, Shagbark  Blount  Charles LeCroy  Charles & Jamie LeCroy
 Hickory, Southern Shagbark  Wilcox  Wayne Webb  Tommy & Jeanell Lawler
 Magnolia, Bigleaf  Wilcox  Tommy Lawler Tommy & Jeanell Lawler 
 Magnolia, Southern  Autauga  Teresa Lee Reuben Gardner
 Oak, Chestnut  Clay  Nick Jordan  Lamar Dewberry
 Oak, Georgia  Lee  Patrick Thompson  Davis Arboretum at Auburn University
 Pine, Virginia  DeKalb  Jason Shelton  DeSoto State Park
 Yellowwood  Monroe  Wayne Webb  U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The purpose of the Champion Tree program is to discover, recognize, and preserve the largest tree of each species in Alabama. Anyone can nominate a tree for Champion Tree designation by completing an on-line nomination form; however, an Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) forester is responsible for collecting the tree's measurements.

When determining a champion, three of the tree's components are taken into consideration: circumference, height, and crown spread. The formula used to determine the size of a tree is as follows: one point for each inch of circumference, plus one point for each foot of height, plus one point for each four feet of the average crown spread.

For a tree to be eligible for the Champion Tree program, it must be a species that is recognized as native or naturalized in Alabama. A naturalized tree is an "introduced" species that has established itself in the wild, reproducing naturally and spreading.

Once a new champion is identified, both its owner and nominator receive a certificate. The nominator is also presented with a permanent tree marker that is to be placed in proximity to the base of the tree. New champions are added to the Champion Trees of Alabama publication which can be found on the AFC website at: www.forestry.alabama.gov.

If you know of a tree that you think might be the largest of its species in the state, you are encouraged to send in a nomination. To complete a nomination form on-line, visit the AFC website and click on the "Champion Tree Program" fast link found on the home page.

Due to limited AFC resources, a nominator is strongly encouraged to review the measurements of the current champion to get an idea if the candidate tree's score has a chance of defeating it before sending a nomination. After all, there are millions of "big" trees in Alabama, but to be a CHAMPION it must be THE "biggest!" Nominations may be sent in year-round, but for a tree to be eligible for Champion Tree designation in 2015 the forms must be received by the program coordinator no later than June 1, 2015.

The mission of the Alabama Forestry Commission is to protect and sustain Alabama's forest resources using professionally applied stewardship principals and education, ensuring that the state's forests contribute to abundant timber and wildlife, clean air and water, and a healthy economy. To learn more about the AFC or the Champion Tree program, visit www.forestry.alabama.gov.

SouthernMagnoliaCoChampionTree2014
Mayor Bill Gillespie stands next to the enormous Southern Magnolia to show perspective of how huge it is.

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