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Introducing Our Champion Tree

Several years ago Joe Bonnette, a retired forest ranger and a friend of mine, who lives in Graham County, informed me that we have a Champion Big Tree located along the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Loop Trail. It is a Cucumber Magnolia Tree, commonly called a Cucumber Tree.

I was intrigued. There are many huge trees in the Memorial Forest, as well as several other areas in Graham County, North Carolina. What would make this particular tree so special that it would deserve to be called a Champion Tree?

I discovered that “Champion Trees” can be discovered by anyone and reported to one of two agencies, both of which keep track of trees in databases.

The North Carolina Forest Service website has a page dedicated to explaining about North Carolina’s Champion Big trees. To quote, “While every tree is special in some way, some have garnered attention by virtue of their great size, their age or their historical significance. The North Carolina Forest Service has been running their program since the 1970’s. Recently they have been working to align their program with the National Big Tree Program.

There is a nationwide program where volunteers from all over the country search for huge trees. It is called “The National Big Tree Program”. The program is designed to locate, register and protect the biggest trees in our country and use the process to educate the public about all trees and the benefits of forests.

If you go to the NC Forest Service database and key up Graham County, up pops the Cucumber Tree, accompanied by its winning measurements. A precise location is not shown because part of the program is to protect the tree. Any tree, especially a very old one, can have its life shortened by too much attention.

During my search I was surprised to discover that Graham County has three other Champion Trees on the list. We have a Champion Black Cherry, A Champion Kentucky Yellowwood and a Champion Yellow Birch. How about that!

As you walk along the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest Trail and the surrounding trails in the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness, keep your eyes open for Champion Trees.

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