|The county's big trees|
|The Press - News|
|Written by Joel Addington|
|Thursday, 28 April 2011 09:24|
The giant magnolia tree at the edge of Reed Tillis’ cow pasture in Taylor is a survivor. Despite being burned, and possibly poisoned, its large leaves remain a defiant shade of green.
“There’s so many people that know about this tree,” said Mr. Tillis, a cattle farmer and UPS supervisor who came here from Jacksonville three decades ago.
He recalled hearing that the property’s former owner, one or two generations ago, attempted to kill the tree using salt.
Then, while burning timber to clear a pasture for his cattle, Mr. Tillis said the flames jumped fire lines he’d cut, reaching the magnolia, which soon began smoldering.
“I almost cried,” he said.
Today the tree off south Carl Brown Road has a hollow, semi-charred base large enough for two or three grown men to stand inside.
“This tree had a rough life,” said county forester Andy Lamborn, who led The Press on a tour in late February of the area’s largest trees. “It looks like it had the top broke out at some point and it’s rotted out ... But considering what’s happened to it, it’s still pretty healthy.”
The biggest trees in the state have a name in official forestry lingo: Champion Tree.
The Florida Division of Forestry [DOF] used to rank Champion trees. The agency accepted nominations from county foresters like Mr. Lamborn, entering their measurements into a database and ranking them from biggest to smallest.
Forester Lamborn said that keeping the
rankings up-to-date became too cumbersome in recent years. Now only the largest trees of each variety are granted the Champion moniker, and they must be native to the state.
Mr. Tillis submitted the resilient magnolia for Champion status, but its 60-foot height and nearly 5-foot diameter wasn’t the most massive on record. According to former county forester Lee Barnwell, however, the tree was once the eighth largest magnolia in Florida, said Mr. Lamborn.
The forester has been on the job for five and half years, but hasn’t found a Champion here yet.
“There’s got to be one somewhere,” he said. “Just about every other Florida county has one.”
He added that a Sa
w Tooth Oak tree on the Glen Nursery tract may be one of the biggest in Florida, but it’s an Asian tree species and not eligible for the Champion declaration.
To determine a tree’s size, DOF measures its height, circumference — the distance around the trunk about 4.5 feet off the ground — and its “crown spread” or canopy size. And while there are no official Champion trees in Baker County today, there are some whoppers.
Perhaps the biggest sits on the banks of the South Prong of the St. Mary’s River on the Glen St. Mary Nursery property. The gigantic cypress stands 95 feet tall with a circumference of 16 feet and a diameter, the distance through the tree, of more than 5 feet.
Another extremely tall tree can be found in Taylor about a half mile from Jack Dowling Circle on Jame
s Nicholson’s 72-acre Forest Edge Farms property.
The 120-foot slash pine with a 2.5 foot diameter also sits near water, the Middle Prong of the St. Mary’s.
“I suspect the only reason it’s there is because it’s on the creek and loggers weren’t able to get to it,” said Mr. Nicholson, a Jacksonville native in the re-insurance business. “It’s a really impressive tree. It’s very straight with very little taper.”
It’s not a behemoth, but what another large Glen Nursery timber lacks in height, it
makes up for in sprea
d and intrigue.
Glen Nursery owner Lin Tabe
r said the mysterious tree with low-hanging, outstretched limbs is believed to be some concoction of a chestnut tree planted there in the late 1880s.
“That’s what’s so impressive is its wide canopy,” said Mr. Lamborn before attempting to measure the canopy’s width. He soon ran out of measuring tape.
“All I got is 75 feet, but it’s probably another 10 feet beyond that,” he said.
The tree tops 55 feet in height with a nearly 5-foot diameter.
“It’s just an unknown,” said Mr. Taber. “It does not produce seeds or bloom. It’s deciduous (loses its leaves in the winter) ... It’s an interesting tree. Whatever it is.”
To nominate a tree for the Florida Champion Tree Program, call Mr. Lamborn at 259-5128 or visit http://www.fl-dof.com/forest_management/champion_trees.html
The largest native tree in Florida is a bald cypress located in Seminole County named “The Senator.” It has a circumference of more than 35 feet, stands 118 feet in the air and carries a 57-foot crown spread. The biggest National Champion tree in the state is a native Florida strangler fig in Dade County with a 30-foot circumference, 63-foot height and crown spread of 72 feet.
Baker County extension services will mark National Arbor Day April 29 with a grand opening of the Ag Center’s arboretum at 10:00 am.
The opening will feature a ceremonial ribbon cutting, tours of the arboretum by master gardeners and a tree seedling giveaway from the Florida Division of Forestry. Call the extension office at 259-3520 for more information.
|Last Updated on Friday, 29 April 2011 11:13|