COLUMBUS, OH -- In a year that brought the national college football championship to the Buckeye State, foresters with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) are seeking a different kind of overall national "winner" - the country's biggest Ohio Buckeye tree. The nation's largest known Ohio Buckeye tree - the state tree of Ohio - now stands in Kentucky.
We are confident that somewhere in our home state there's a bigger and more stately Ohio Buckeye tree than the Kentucky specimen, said John Dorka, chief of the ODNR Division of Forestry. It's just a matter of finding it, and I know Ohioans are up to the challenge.
Ohio is currently home to 14 national champion Big Trees. A registry of 826 Big Trees - the largest examples of their species in the country - is maintained by American Forests, a conservation organization based in Washington, D.C.
American Forests assigns each Big Tree a score based on trunk circumference, crown spread and total height. In 1994, a 148-foot Ohio Buckeye tree in Dunnville, Kentucky, scored 311 points, making it the current national champion for the species.
The ODNR Division of Forestry, with the financial support and partnership of the International Paper Company, is renewing efforts to locate and catalogue Ohio's own Big Trees. They are actively seeking the public's help with the project.
State foresters are accepting nominations for the biggest specimens of Ohio buckeyes, as well as potential Big Tree champions for other species in Ohio. ODNR foresters and other experts will assess nominated trees to determine their eligibility for Big Tree honors.
The three most common buckeye trees in Ohio are the Yellow Buckeye, the Horsechestnut and the Ohio Buckeye. Only the yellow and Ohio Buckeye species are native to the state. They are generally found along streams, mostly in lowland areas. Buckeye trees are among the first to leaf out in the spring. Their distinctive leaf structure features five leaflets growing from one stem - like fingers growing from the palm of a hand. The bark is grayish and ranges from smooth to flaky - with the oldest trees displaying the flakiest bark texture. A detailed illustration of an Ohio Buckeye is available on the web at ohiodnr.com
Big Trees are generally found in yards, parks, arboretums and cemeteries where their size stands out, Dorka said. They are rarely found in dense forests where trees normally don't develop broad crowns.
Nominating forms for Ohio's Big Trees are available at ohiodnr.com Persons interested in nominating a specific tree for Big Tree honors can take quick preliminary measurements using the diagram and directions available on the web site. Information is also available through the ODNR Division of Forestry at 614-265-6694. Representatives of the ODNR Big Tree program will verify all nominated trees, using special equipment.
The ODNR Division of Forestry is charged with ensuring healthy forests and good forestry practices in the state. The state's Big Trees can be examples of what it takes to develop healthy trees over a long period of time. One hundred years of good forest management has increased the amount of tree cover across Ohio from only 12 percent in 1900 to more than 33 percent today.