Gentle Giants

Written by Keith Hawkins - published in June, 1990 newsletter

A recent issue of American Forests magazine published The National Register of Big Trees. This is a 50 year old program of the American Forestry Association started after Joseph L. Sterns, a forester, became concerned that the world war would decimate forest resources and destroy America's "living landmarks."

Currently, there are 57 National Champion Trees in Virginia out of the 850 plus in the Register. Virginia has several noteworthy trees: a majestic tulip-poplar in Bedford County, a formidable loblolly pine in King William County, and the smallest National Champion, a Virginia Stewartia with a height of 15 feet, a girth of 10 inches, and a crown spread of 24 feet.

Two of these National Champions are in Prince William County, both discovered by Richard Salzer of Annandale. These trees are not particularly large, but they, like the Virginia Stewartia, are the largest documented trees of their species. One is a hazel alder (Alnus serrulata) located near Prince William Forest Park. Its dimensions are: circumference, 16": height, 35"; crown spread, 16'. The other is a cock spur hawthorn (Crataegus crus-galli), and you can find it near the Evergreen Country Club. Its dimensions are: circumference, 60" height 40'; crown spread, 48'.

Added by David Cuff, Nov. 2015. More information on nominating a big tree can be found at