Saturday, August 15, 2015

I Speak for the Champion Trees

Answers to the two most common questions about champion trees: 1. Yes, there are actually quite a few people who enjoy measuring big trees. 2. A champion tree is the largest of its species based on this formula:

Champion Tree Points = Height (ft) + Circumference (in) + 1/4 Canopy spread (ft)

The data for this map is curated by the nonprofit American Forests and is a compilation of data from state champion tree lists. I first got interested in champion trees when I came across the Atlanta list; now I appreciate trees more when walking through my local neighborhoods and parks. Some of the national champions on the American Forests list have pictures too- click on a tree in the map to get an image link. Two of my favorite images are the Giant Sequoia and the Western Red Cedar.

Champion Giant Sequoia
Champion Western Red Cedar
I've heard the phrase "in it for the right reasons" more than once when talking to people who are into measuring big trees. I'm still not sure what that means. 

I also noticed from the linked pictures that big tree measuring seems to be a very male-dominated activity.

The graph below gives some additional context around champion trees. California has the most champion points and largest tree, while Florida has the most individual champions. (The map above only shows champions with at least 270 points, but the graph below includes all champions, including species that are quite small.) Eight states don't have any champions- Arkansas, Delaware, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

To learn how the champion tree map was built in Tableau, see this post.


  1. pretty cool!
    How did you get the data from American Forests?

    1. Thanks! The data is on their website and I used to extract it. I went into a little more detail about that here:

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  4. I was always wondering why there is such a little amount of such champion trees on our planet? Were other destroyed by someone? Or they are simple exceptions and there is no miracle here? I used service to translate numerous Chinese texts about huge trees and find ous some very interesting facts there...