Champion Trees of Kansas
A large tree has a certain mystique. How old is it? What sights and sounds has it witnessed? What historical significance does it have? These are questions one often ponders while gazing upwards through the branches of a huge tree.
Landmark trees played an important role in the settling of Kansas, guiding pioneers to their destinations. Such historic trees as the Custer Elm, the Post Office Oak and the Osage County Cottonwood were guideposts on the Kansas plains.
Reports of large or unusual trees are common in Kansas literature. H.A. (Steve) Stephens’ book, Trees, Shrubs and Woody Vines of Kansas, ends with a list of noteworthy examples. His original list of Champion Trees is now maintained by the Kansas Forest Service. Champion Trees of Kansas is a continuation of Stephens’ work.
The Kansas Champion Tree Program maintains a searchable database of the largest trees in Kansas so they can be identified, preserved, and enjoyed by all. The majority of trees listed are native to the state, though a few non-native species are also included.
Help is needed to locate, document, and preserve outstanding trees in Kansas. Kansans are invited to nominate potential champion trees by completing our online nomination form. Nominations will be measured by a Champion Tree Program official and results shared with the nominator.
Nominations are judged on a point system established by the American Forests National Register of Big Trees. One point is awarded for each inch of circumference, one point per foot of height and one-fourth point per foot of crown spread.
Total Points = Circumference + Height + (Crown Spread/4)
Circumference is measured in inches, at a point on the trunk 4½ feet above ground. On a slope, the trunk is measured 4½ feet above the ground on the uphill side and again on the downhill side, then average the two numbers for the circumference . If the tree has a fork below 4½ feet, the largest stem is measured at 4½ feet and this measurement is the circumference for the tree. If a tree forks at or slightly above 4½ feet, the circumference is measured below the fork where the circumference is the least.
Height is measured, or estimated, in feet, from the base of the trunk to the highest branch.
Crown spread is the distance, in feet, from the end of the branches on one side of the tree, through the trunk, to the ends of the branches on the opposite side. A second measurement is made at a right angle to the first measurement and the two measurements are averaged.
The three measurements of height, circumference, and crown spread are added together to give a total point score. Circumference is the most important factor, followed by height and crown spread.
For additional information about the Kansas Champion Tree Program, please contact the Darci Paull, GIS Specialist and Kansas Champion Tree Program Coordinator.