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Fall: A Great Time to Plant Trees for Future GenerationsMaster Gardener Scoop – November 2, 2016

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Fall: A Great Time to Plant Trees for Future Generations

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By Will Summers, Master Gardener

This is a reminder that, although it is great to plant trees at any time of the year, fall is one of the best times. Fall weather is more predictable and conditions that follow are more suitable for the establishment of the tree. Planting a tree now while the temperatures are cooler ensures a better survival rate for the tree and allows the tree to establish a root system before winter.

We should plant a tree for each year we live. In doing so, we plant a tree for our children and all future generations. Trees contribute to a healthy environment. There are good communities and there are great communities. What makes some of the most livable and attractive communities are their trees.

Although much of our land is cultivated or developed, of the 35.6 million acres of land in Illinois, there are 4.4 million acres forested. Ninety-seven percent are hardwood trees, and only three percent are conifers. North America has about 770 different species of trees, and there are more than 250 species of trees in Illinois. The state tree of Illinois is the white oak, and slippery elm is the most common.

State Tree Giants Registry – A National Registry of Big Trees began in 1941. The Illinois Big Tree Register (IBTR) was established in 1962 to “discover, record, recognize, and appreciate the largest native tree species” in the state. To register a “tree champion,” a point system is calculated which includes (1) diameter at 4.5 feet height (DBH), (2) circumference, (3) height, (4) crown spread. These measurements must be reaffirmed every ten years to be current.

Nearby, Jefferson County has the champion flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), Perry County has the record shingle oak (Quercus inbricata), Randolph County has the record blackjack oak, and Washington County has the record post oak (Q. stellata).

There are no record trees for other surrounding counties. The top-producing “Big Tree” counties in Illinois are Union County (8), Sangamon (5), DuPage (4), Manard (4) and Wabash (4).

There are nearly seventy tree species such as red maple, tulip poplar, shagbark hickory and green ash without a champion registered.

Please be on the lookout for these giants and be the first to register it for your county.

If you feel you know of a tree that might qualify for the IBTR, there is an application form on the Illinois Extension website.

Big trees are found in highly-productive and well-protected areas.

If you know of the location of a tree that might qualify, please consider registering soon. Tree species are durable, but do not last forever. IBTR tree lists are updated each year. Trees may be nominated at any time of year, but are due twice-annually, the first of February and August each year. One tree that falls within five points of a champion tree may be listed as a “co-champion.”

The National Register of Big Trees recognizes four big trees in Illinois. The four National Tree Champions are Ohio buckeye (Aesculus glabra), Kansas hawthorn (Crataegus coccinoides) both in DuPage County, blackjack oak (Quercus marilandica) in Randolph County and Shumard oak (Q. Shumardii) in Union County.

Forestry Education — If it’s time to help a child or teenager decide their future career, please suggest becoming a forester. Forestry is a very multi-disciplined science. The first forestry school in the US was the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Both U of I and Southern Illinois University at Carbondale forestry schools are accredited by the Society of American Foresters. Exciting careers await men and women in forestry career fields.

For more information regarding trees and tree planting, please contact any University of Illinois Master Gardener, your local county Extension Office or your local public library.

Vernon Nagel, 93, of Nashville, holds the record for the largest post oak tree (Quercus stellata). This post oak measures nearly five and a half feet in diameter and is over 73 feet tall.