You better 'be-leaf' it: The hunt is on for Michigan’s biggest tree

Posted at 2:00 PM, Mar 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-04 14:00:36-05

(WSYM) — Think you’re up for the challenge of finding Michigan’s biggest tree? All you have to do is be-leaf in yourself, and enter the "Big Tree Hunt Contest."

The biennial contest is hosted by ReLeaf Michigan, a statewide tree-planting and education nonprofit, which works closely with the Michigan Botanical Club on this effort. This is the organization's 15th contest where Michiganders are encouraged to set out and find the largest tree around. Ashley Laux, project forester with ReLeaf Michigan, said the biggest trees are nominated for the State Champion Tree List with a shot at making it on the official National Register of Champion Trees.

“We’re really interested in getting folks outside and looking up at the trees and appreciating the trees that are either in their neighborhoods or yards,” said Laux. “It’s ... an engaging activity for us, and then also being able to keep track of some of these historical living legacies that are in the state.”

Winners will be selected across multiple categories after the conclusion of the contest.

  • Tree must be living and accessible for verification
  • Tree size is determined by circumference (measurement around trunk)
  • All entries must be submitted online by August 19, 2022

You can make a submission here.

There’s also an important scientific element to the hunt.

“When we know where some of these old trees are, sometimes scientists can go out and take genetic samples ... and see if there's something specific about that tree that made it so resilient,” she said.

Currently, Michigan has one tree on the National Register of Champion Trees. It’s a white willow located in Ingham County with a circumference measurement of 389 inches. The tree was submitted by Ted Reuschel in 2016.

During the 14th Big Tree Hunt Contest, Laux said they had over 700 entries across Michigan's 83 counties.

Here are some winners from the last contest:

Images courtesy ReLeaf Michigan

(nominator of any age)
Nominator: James Wegner
Species: Red Oak
Location: Marion
County: Osceola
Measurement: 384" (32 feet!) around

Images courtesy ReLeaf Michigan

(nominator 15 or younger)
Nominators: Stephanie and Patrick Bushey
Species: Cottonwood
Location: Saline
County: Washtenaw
Measurement: 312" around

Images courtesy ReLeaf Michigan

Nominator: Heather Sewell
Species: White Pine
Location: Askel
County: Houghton
Measurement: 204" around

Laux said they are appreciative of donations and sponsors who help with the contest. She also encourages people to check out ReLeaf Michigan for upcoming tree planting events in their area.