Few things capture the respect that nature commands than a massive, looming tree. But the trees found on this list are special. They’re “champion trees” — the largest recorded living trees of their kinds.
Beginning in 1940, the American Forests National Big Tree Program has maintained a national catalog of champion trees. There are currently four in Kansas, and six of these trees in Missouri. While some trees are on private land, the ones in this list are all publicly accessible and within a couple hours’ drive from Kansas City.
1. Texas Red Oak – Topeka, Kansas
This tree claims the National Champion title for its species, and sits at 189 inches, or 15 feet 9 inches, in circumference and 69 feet tall. Located in Crestview Park, the tree is among eight other Kansas state champions in Topeka.
2. Hortulan Plum – Columbia, Missouri
Another National Champion, this tree makes its home in the East Port Park. A 37 inch circumference combined with a height of 30 feet makes this the smallest tree on this list. There are a little over half a dozen state champion trees in Boone County, but most of them are concentrated on the University of Missouri campus.
3. Yellow-Poplar Tuliptree – Lansing, Kansas
Found in the Southwest portion of the Mt. Muncie Cemetery, this state champion is by far the tallest tree on the list. It towers at 113 feet tall, and 191 inches in circumference. Lansing is a short drive away from Leavenworth, which hosts a whopping 70 state champions, including a massive Pecan tree. A vast majority of these trees, including the Pecan, are located on the grounds of Fort Leavenworth and can be challenging to reach.
4. Quaking Aspen – Union Ridge Conservation Area
For the dedicated arborists and camping-types, this Missouri state champion is a treat. Measuring 37 inches in circumference and 66 feet tall, the Quaking Aspen stands out for its iconic white bark. Union Ridge is a sprawling, 8,262-acre area that features a boat ramp on Union Lake, campgrounds, fishing and hunting. While hiking through the conservation area, prepare to see prairie grasses and wildflowers such as big (and little) bluestems, prairie clovers and leadplants.
5. Rock Elm – Lawrence, Kansas
The last National Champion on the list, this tree sits on the campus of the University of Kansas. There are twelve other state champions in Lawrence. It clocks in at 51 inches in diameter and 39 feet tall. The Rock Elm, a Midwestern native, accompanies 12 other state champions in Lawrence.
Below are links to the full list of Kansas, Missouri, and National Champion trees.
Tom Taylor is an intern on Central Standard. Reach him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.