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Big Tree calendar marks months with unique champions

The National Register of Big Trees Calendar features champion trees from different species as well as other tree themes and information (Photo courtesy of The Davey Tree Expert Company).

By Bobbie Whitehead

With limbs stretched out like octopus tentacles, an old Bur Oak tree stands along the edge of a country road in Boone, Mo.

This Midwestern Bur Oak holds the title “co-champion” with another Bur Oak in Woodford, Ky., for being the largest of its species.

Photos of the old Bur Oak trees appeared in a National Register of Big Trees Calendar, a 16-month calendar featuring pictures of champion trees and published by American Forests, a national conservation organization.

Established in 1875, American Forests, a non-profit, has maintained the National Register of Big Trees since 1940. For more than 15 years, The Davey Tree
Expert Company, based in Kent, Ohio, has sponsored the calendar.In creating the yearly calendars, Davey experts have identified and, in the past, photographed the largest trees of different species, said Pat Sarikelle, The Davey Tree Expert Co. communications project manager.

“Years ago we had a photographer with a large format camera who went out to take the pictures of the trees,” Sarikelle said. “Now we go to state forestry departments, and we work with those who might have photos.”

Davey chooses trees for the calendar based on photo availability, among other factors, she said.

For 2010 calendar, Davey added photos of significant secondary trees along with commentary about them beneath the champion tree photos, Sarikelle said. The secondary trees for the species may have been cared for by Davey or were identified by a Davey employee for some unique characteristic, she said.

In the calendar selection process, Davey tries to balance the trees it chooses based on geographical location and tree types, Sarikelle said.

Trees in the 2010 calendar also can be viewed at American Forests’ online National Register of Big Trees and in its big tree register catalog, a publication updated every two years and sponsored by Davey. This year, American Forests will release its 70th anniversary catalog edition, which will have 57 new tree species, according to Dan Smith, American Forests vice president of communications.

“We’ll update the registry and crown the new trees to the list,” he said.

Documenting the big trees isn’t American Forests’ only project. This year, the organization will release its newest online registry, the National Register of Historic Trees, Smith said.

American Forests also has programs in urban forestry and urban policy and conducts forest restoration under the program Global ReLeaf, Smith said.

“Through our Global ReLeaf program, we plant trees for ecosystem restoration,” he said. “We’ve been doing this for 20 years, and we’ve planted over 30 million trees.”

American Forests’ restoration goal is to plant 100 million trees by the year 2020, he said.

“We’re not just interested in numbers,” Smith said. “What’s important to us is planting trees to restore ecosystems.”

In more recent years, American Forests has applied high-tech tools to understand the problems of trees and forests and to help find solutions through its Urban Ecosystems program. For example, American Forests uses geographic information system satellite imagery to review “green infrastructure.” In looking at elements such as the tree canopies, experts can calculate the different benefits and the dollar value associated with the trees, Smith said.

“We are this older organization, and we also are proud of the cutting-edge programs and approaches we have for the environment,” he said.

The Big Tree Calendar, sold for $10 a copy, helps generate funds for the organization as well as brings awareness to American Forests programs. To purchase a copy, visit American Forests at

In addition to registries and tree catalogs, American Forests also publishes American Forests magazine. In the autumn 2009 issue, the magazine featured the article, “A Call for Backyard Biodiversity.”