Big Tree Tours Celebrate
County’s Champion Trees
Conservation Montgomery’s Big Tree Tours, which educate residents on the importance of tree stewardship, are wildly popular. Held in the spring and fall, the tours are guided by the legendary Joe Howard, founder of Montgomery County Big Tree Registry and a member of the county’s Forestry Advisory Board.
The tour celebrates champion trees — the largest known tree of a given species in a particular geographic area. Montgomery County is home to the Maryland State Champion tree — an American sycamore that is more than eight feet in diameter. While every tree we visit is not a designated “champion,” all are among the largest trees of their species in the area. And Howard’s enchanting narrative on each tree is not to be missed.
Prior to the pandemic, Conservation Montgomery chartered a bus to transport about 25 people around the county for each Big Tree Tour. But current pandemic protocols require attendees to drive in separate vehicles and meet at the starting point for each event. Because there is no transportation cost involved, there is no charge for Big Tree Tours during the pandemic. We hope to return to using a tourbus again soon.
Reservations are required for our Big Tree Tours, and the event is typically filled the same day a notice is distributed to our email list. To receive Big Tree Tour notifications and make reservations for future tours, click here.
Maryland State Champion: Our Magnificent Shumard Oak
Montgomery County is home to the Maryland State Champion Shumard oak, which boasts an astounding 272-inch circumference. It lives close to the Potomac River, just downstream of Lock 7 at Glen Echo in the C&O Canal National Historic Park.
Native to North America, Shumard oaks are known by several alternate names: swamp red oak, Southern red oak, spotted oak, Schneck oak. They are strong, long-lived, moderately fast growing and can reach heights of 150 feet. The oaks bear seeds for 25 to 50 years, and their acorns, produced every two to four years, feed wildlife. Their leaves remain green long into autumn then turn a deep orange-red.
Considered a lowland tree, Shumard oaks grow scattered among other hardwoods in moist, well-drained soils associated with streams and rivers. But these handsome shade trees have also been successfully grown in urban areas where air pollution, compacted soil and poor drainage are common.
To find Montgomery County’s magnificent Shumard oak, go to Lock 7, cross the towpath from the lock house and walk downstream about 1/4 mile on the path along the river. It stands just beside the footpath, has three trunks and a wide-spread base displaying the nicks and scratches of a long life. Be sure touch the bark in greeting and sit beside it for a while.
(This is an excerpt from an article written by Conservation Montgomery Vice Chair Ginny Barnes, pictured here with our county’s Shumard oak.)