LITTLE ROCK Dardanelle residents at Council Oaks Park recently gathered to honor a champion - the largest white oak tree in Arkansas.
The tree’s scientific name is Quercus alba.
It is owned by the city of Dardanelle.
The tree’s circumference is 255 inches, and its crown spreads 85 feet.
The group of almost 50 gathered May 26 at the Dardanelle park to commemorate the White Oak Champion Tree witha marker, the first for an Arkansas Champion Tree.
“The marker is one of three that will be placed in Dardanelle,” said Christian Fowler, public affairs coordinator for the Arkansas Forestry Commission.
“The others include the Arkansas State Champion Eastern Cottonwood and the National and Arkansas State Champion Persimmon.”
Dardanelle’s Champion C ommon Persimmon is the largest in the country, said Wayne Shewmake, chairman of the Dardanelle Tree Advisory Committee, which works with the Arkansas Forestry Commission to recommend trees for the Arkansas Champion Tree program.
The program recognizes those trees that are the largest of their species. Trees are compared using the American Forests’ Bigness Index.
The markers weigh approximately 300 pounds, Shewmake said, and were donated by a Hot Springs rock quarry.
Each marker simply explains that the accompanying tree is the largest of its kind in the state.
Shewmake said this allows the markers to be moved if the tree happens to die or be blown over by a storm.
“We used to have the record black gum tree,” Shewmake said. “It died on us last year, so we lost one of our trees. That can happen.”
But Dardanelle still has seven champion trees in all. Besides the white oak, Eastern cottonwood and persimmon, Dardanelle also has the record for the largest Northern catalpa, black hickory, Southern magnolia and Southern red oak.
All of these champion trees allowed Dardanelle to be the first city in the state to qualify for the designation Tree City USA from the Arbor Day Foundation.
“ This is our third year starting that program,” Shewmake said.
“The Dardanelle Garden Club started working on this project back in 1977, and at that time we had 22 trees that were designated state records.”
For a full list of the Arkansas State Champion Trees or for more information about the program, visit www.arkansasforestry.org/ education/arkansaschampiontrees.html.
Anyone who knows of a tree believed to be the largest of its species is asked to contact a local Arkansas Forestry Commission office with the information.
River Valley Ozark, Pages 129 on 06/05/2011
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