The nominations were tallied and the measurements double-checked, but in the end it really was no contest as Wellesley Township has retained the title of home of the biggest tree in the region. The search was part of the 2011 Champion Tree Hunt of Waterloo Region, and this year a massive 38.4-metre eastern cottonwood with a trunk measuring more than 7 metres in circumference was crowned the winner. The tree is located in a small valley at the side of the road near 4599 Weimar Line, between Bamberg and the village of Wellesley.
It’s the same species of tree which won the last Champion Tree Hunt, held in 1990, and the new champion is only a few kilometres from that spot.
“It kind of surprises me that (the eastern cottonwood) was the winner both times, because it is a fairly soft-wooded tree,” said arborist Phil Dickie, one of the hunt’s organizers.
“Typically the soft-wooded trees don’t last a long time because they’re more prone to damage.”
The arborist noted it is difficult to determine the age of the tree, but estimates it could be between 125 and 150 years old, and suggested that because tree was in a partially protected area of the landscape, that may have contributed to its longevity.
The arborist also said that the original winner, which was measured at 35 metres tall in 1990, is still standing, but is in a state of decline.
Seeking to revive the hunt, Dickie joined two other professional arborists, Mike Hayes and Greg Templeman, about two years ago to begin organizing the 2011 rendition. He said their aim was to promote the protection and enjoyment of large, mature trees in the region.
“Trees do so much for us and we do not do enough for them. I think people really need to be aware of not just what’s out there, but the benefits of these large trees,” he said.
The group received 332 entries during the nomination period that ran from May 2 to Sept. 30, with the winners announced last Saturday at the Huron Natural Area in Kitchener. The trees covered an enormous geographic range, from Wellesley and West Montrose to Branchton Forest, south of Cambridge.
The group had about nine volunteers help with verifying measurements submitted by the public, with a scoring system used to decide the winner.
By determining the average crown spread and adding it to the height of the tree in feet and the circumference of the trunk, they found their winner.
The eastern cottonwood had a total score of 435.5 points – nearly 45 more than the runner-up, a silver maple located in Cambridge.
The tree was discovered and submitted by Judy Weber earlier in the summer during one of her regular Monday morning drives into the country. The Waterloo-resident and her husband Peter submitted 14 trees for this year’s hunt.
“I just saw it and thought ‘this is a big tree!’ laughed Weber.
“I really didn’t expect it to win because there were other eastern cottonwoods that were nominated, and I never really sat down and did the comparison from mine to theirs.”
For the organizers of the event, the hunt was a huge success and they hope it will highlight the enormous benefits of large, mature trees.
Dickie said one 100-year-old beech tree can stand about 20 metres tall, has about 6,000 leaves and a total surface area of two football fields. On a sunny day just one can convert 9,400 litres of carbon dioxide and produce 13 kilograms of oxygen.
He hopes others will take up the challenge of planning the hunt in the future, and will use their website, www.treehunt.ca as a template.
“What we’ve tried to do is create a model from which any other interested groups in the future could pull from,” he said.