The Arizona Register of Big Trees

Honoring and Protecting the State's Largest Trees

Updated December 16, 2004

Arizona's National Champion Native Trees

This website records Arizona's noblest vegetation, the state's champion trees. A "national champion" tree is the largest reported specimen of its species or variety in the United States, and is recorded by the National Register of Big Trees, a program of American Forests in Washington DC.

The 2004 - 2005 National Register of Big Trees is finally published. Due to a personnel shortage (the Big Tree Program intern left in January), American Forests were running about six or eight weeks behind schedule this year. The new register was inserted in the "Spring" issue of American Forests, mailed in June.

A major policy change has been made in the National Register, which is good for us and for the accuracy of the national program. The National Big Tree Advisory Committee has finally addressed the question of "time since measurement". I have been bugging the national program for a long time to require periodic remeasurements and re-evaluation updates on Champion trees. Last year I sent htem a list of 61 "champion" trees (from the 2002-2003 national register) that hadn't been re-measured for over 25 years, some over 35 years, and many had not even been seen for decades. I know from our Arizona experience that we lose a few champions almost every year to wind storms, lightning, fire and vandalism, and if we didn't keep checking on our trees, they would retain their championship status long after they are dead.

So there is a new "10-Year" rule. To stay on the National Register, all champions will need to have been remeasured within 10 years of the publication of each new register. This puts a minor strain on us, as we will have to remeasure 14 of our current champions before the 2006-2007 national register is published. Most of these I know are healthy, and a few are declining but still valid champions; I just haven't reported updated info on them. A few in remote places that we haven't seen in 10 years we'll have to relocate, but I don't think that will be a problem. I'll get a list together this fall and assign some of you the task of remeasuring them. We need to get accurate GPS data on those earlier trees anyhow.

The 10-Year rule will probably bring several additional champions to Arizona, because many of the old champions in California, New Mexico and Texas have not been relocated in decades and may be dead or injured when they are found. And some will not be found. We have pretty large specimans of some of these species here in Arizona that we can nom inate if any of these others turn up missing.

Now, to the Arizona changes in the 2004-2005 National Register. We have 84 champion trees, which puts us solidly in third place nationally, behind Florida and California. Texas is not far behind us, with 80, but we should pull out well ahead next time because we have about six new nominations.

We lost five champions to other states; the quaking aspen, the Knowlton hophornbeam, both southwestern black cherries, and the Bonpland willow. Three of our champions have been killed, but we already have replacement nominations for all three: the Schott's yucca and the border pinyon, both by wildfires, and the Mexican elder, by bulldozer.

We have two new "teams" of big tree hunters that have made very significant contributions to our Arizona champion tree listing. The first is based in Cottonwood; David Thornberg, his wife Judy, his son Paul, and his friend Harry Untiedt have come up with an astonishing eleven (yes, 11!) of our new champions. (And these folks have since found several more nominations for the next register.) The other team is made up of Larry Wright and Russel Gates, from Scottsdale, who have found four new champions for Arizona.

There are 23 new Arizona additions to the national register. We now have champions for eight of the old 2002-2003 "species without champions": Chihuahua ash, fragrant ash, Gregg ash, Texas kidneywood, lime, sandpaper oak, sour orange, and yellow-elder. We dethroned three champions from other states; huisachillo (twisted acacia) taken from Texas; blue palo verde finally wrested from California after ten years of trying, and a spectacular Gambel oak (106 ft. tall) taken from New Mexico. We added seven new co-champions, and replaced (or dethroned) five of our own older champions with larger specimens of the same species. The two most significant of these latter trees are ahuge Arizona Sycamore and a magnificent Arizona white oak, both found by the Thornberg team.

Thanks to Mike Hallen and Chuck Hockaday, we have finally have a champion blue paloverde for Arizona, our state tree. They found a beautiful large specimen near Hyder in Maricopa County. In addition, Mike also found, or helped find with other big tree hunters, seven of our other new champions.

Our earlier six saguaro co-champions have now been dethroned by two larger ones. Charlie Blank and Joe Pleggenkuhle (with two other saguaro hunters), two of our best Saguaro hunters for many years who had found earlier champion saguaros, found these two new champions. Joe et al's saguaro made a full page photo in the new register.

Thanks to several of our alert big tree hunters, we have discovered six new non-native champions in Arizona: five exotics (lime, sour orange, Japanese privet, and two oleanders, all considered naturalized), and one Florida native (mayten tree at Boyce Thompson Arboretum).

Other interesting statistics and info: Arizona now has champions for six species of ash, eight champion oaks, and five champion pines. There are a few minor mistakes and typos in the new register, of which I will notify the National Office. Finally, if you are interested, my letter regarding our champion Arizona cypress surviving the Aspen Fire was published in the Spring 2004 issue of American Forests, page 4.

It will soon be four years since we published the Year 2000 ARBT. Some of us are still hoping to publish an updated ARBT next fall or early winter, by the end of the year anyway. We can probably print a no-photos (or perhaps only black and white photos) version with the funding that we currently have. If we want a slick color version like our two previous editions, we will need to raise some more money. In any case, it will take some work to collate and screen the best photos and to re-write the text and organize the tables.

Thanks to all of you for your continued interest and help in making our ARBT program successful. With all the good help on board, I fully expect that Arizona will surpass California's 102 champions for the 2006-2007 National Register. It's hard to believe that in only 12 yers, since Richard Harris boldly envisioned our ARBT, we have grown from nly 16 national champion trees to the present 84.

 

Bob Zahner, Coordinator
Arizona Register of Big Trees
(520) 578-4639

Bill Cannon, Coordinator
National Register of Big Trees American Forests
(800) 323-1560

Copyright 2004 Arizona Register of Big Trees

Contact Webmaster: jo@azarboretum.org