An eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides) located in Schaghticoke, Rensselaer County, NY, has regained its title as the largest known tree in New York State. The tree had been discovered and crowned the largest in the state back in 1972, but was removed from the list when it was not remeasured or confirmed to still exist.
The cottonwood became a forgotten entry gathering digital dust until the tree was rediscovered this past fall after Fred Breglia, an arborist and big tree enthusiast, made some message board inquiries based on an old article about the tree. Breglia connected with Kris Dulmer, whose uncle used to take him to see the tree.
If you think you’ve found a big tree candidate, measure its circumference at 4.5 feet above the ground and compare it to the existing champion – a large part of a tree’s score comes from the circumference, so it is a good way to see if your tree has a chance of making the list.
If it’s close, contact the Lands and Forests Program at a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) office near where the tree is located to have a forester measure the tree, or find a non-DEC professional experienced in identifying and measuring trees, such as a certified arborist or cooperating forester, to determine the tree’s total point score.
Then complete a New York State Big Tree Nomination Form and submit it to DEC for verification. The New York State Big Tree Register is updated once a year in January. Nominations must be submitted by September 1 to make it into the following year’s list. Email the Big Tree Coordinator Erin Brady at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions.
The list of New York State Big Tree Champions is available in scientific name (PDF) and common name (PDF). American Forests, which runs the National Champion Trees Program, is the authority for determining which tree species are eligible for champion status. You can view their list of eligible native and naturalized tree species to see if your tree qualifies.
Photo of the Schaghticoke eastern cottonwood courtesy Fred Breglia.