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Champion Trees of ND


The NDSU-North Dakota Forest Service maintains the records for the Champion TreeA man trying to get his arms around a large American Elm Program.  The ND Register of Champion Trees contains the champion trees and the runner-ups.  Nominations for the largest tree of each genus and species are accepted throughout the year, and are due no later than December 31 at the state headquarters.  The register is updated with the new champions and released shortly after the New Year.  

View the 2013 ND Champion Tree Register.


1.      If you think you have a champion, fill in the nomination form at this How To Nominate a Champion Tree link here and e-mail it -- or print if off, fill it out and mail it along with a photo to the address at the bottom of the form.  Forms are due by December 31 each year.  

2.      If you are not sure what type of tree you have, you may also send in a small branch with several attached twigs and leaves so it can be identified.  Put them in a sealed plastic bag and mail it along with the nomination form in a bubble bag.

3.      If the tree is a possible new state champion, a forester or designated representative will visit the tree and View of a cottonwood trunk and crown at Smith Groveofficially measure it.

4.      If it is a new state champion, the owner and nominator will each receive a certificate and the tree will be added to the “ND Champion Tree Register.”  It will stay there until it is dethroned by a larger tree or dies.  

 Roots of the Program

On May 4, 1984, the ND Society of American Foresters and the ND Tree Farm Committee began a public contest on Arbor Day (the first Friday of May in ND) to find the largest of each native tree species in the state.  The contest focused on getting some attention for trees and their owners, while having some fun.  It was modeled after the “National Register of Big Trees” run by American Forests.  The owner(s) of the largest tree in each tree species category below received a wood plaque as a prize the following Arbor Day.

  • American Elm
  • Balsam Poplar
  • Birch 
  • Black Ash
  • Boxelder
  • Bur Oak
  • Cottonwood 
  • Green Ash
  • Hackberry
  • Ironwood
  • Limber Pine
  • Linden also known as Basswood
  • Peach Leaf Willow
  • Ponderosa Pine 
  • Quaking also known as Trembling Aspen
  • Rocky Mountain Juniper
  • Slippery Elm

In 1986, when North Dakota’s state centennial emphasis on planting 100 million trees was initiated, the North Dakota Forest Service and Centennial Trees Commission joined as sponsors. The Champion Tree Program was expanded to include native and naturalized non-native trees.  Since that time, winners and nominators have both received a certificate and been included in the register.

Common Questions 

What is a tree?  A tree is defined as any plant that has achieved one erect perennial woody stem or trunk at least 3 inches in diameter 4-1/2 feet above the ground (breast height); a definitely formed crown of foliage; and a height of at least 13 feet.  To be a champion tree, a tree must meet these minimum requirements.  In contrast, shrubs are small woody plants, usually with several perennial stems branching at the base.

What is eligible?  A tree is eligible as long as it is rooted and in relatively good health.  Measurements for height and average crown spread incorporate all parts of the tree, dead or alive. Native and naturalized non-native tree species growing in North Dakota are acceptable.

Only major species are accepted, no cultivars or named varieties.

What’s the difference between native and naturalized non-native?  Native tree species (also called indigenous) are wild and grew naturally in the undisturbed environment before the arrival of Europeans.  A naturalized non-native tree is an introduced species that has become established and is reproducing on its own in “wild” settings.

How long does a champion tree stay in the register?  A tree stays in the register until it is dethroned by a larger tree or dies.  When two trees have scores that fall within 5 points of each other, they may be listed as co-champions.  Trees are measured not more than every 5 years.

Can I visit the champion trees?  The champion trees located on public land can be visited without a problem.  If a tree is located on private land, we ask that you respect the private landowner and ask permission before making a visit.

How can I nominate a champion tree?  At the back of this register is the information you need and a form that can be submitted to the ND Forest Service headquarters by December 31.

What is North Dakota’s largest tree?  A cottonwood in Ransom County with a girth of 

318-inches (26 feet, 6 inches), 115-feet tall and an average crown spread of 110-feet. 

What is the nation’s largest tree?  The “General Sherman” giant sequoia in California is the largest living thing in the world (as heavy as 360 elephants) with a girth of 1,020-inches 

(85-feet), 274-feet tall and an average crown spread of 107-feet.  

The American Forests keeps the records for the “National Register of Big Trees,” sponsored by the Davey Tree Expert Company.  This program began in 1940.  A copy of the national register of big trees can be obtained by calling 1-800-368-5748, Ext. 202, or found at their web site at:

The North Dakota Forest Service provides the “ND Register of Champion Trees” free upon request in hard copy or it can be found on our web site at the link at the top of this page.  For any other questions, contact:  


Glenda Fauske, Information and Education Coordinator
307 - 1st Street East
Bottineau ND 58318-1100

Tel:  (701) 228-5446          Fax:  (701) 228-5448




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Last Updated: Thursday, January 30, 2014 3:51:17 PM