When Julie Wade’s grandmother first planted the seed for what is now a gigantic Douglas fir tree at her home at 711 W. Maple St., she probably didn’t imagine that it would get so tall, or that it would be among three trees in Johnson City to be named state champions by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Forestry Division.
Joining the Douglas Fir among the city’s three Champion Trees was a pin oak and a southern catalpa, all ranking No. 1 among their species.
Patrick Walding, city forester for the Public Works Department’s street division, said a former Tree and Landscape Board member became interested in finding out what was the largest tree in Johnson City in 1999, which they concluded at the time was a pin oak tree located in the cemetery behind Snow Memorial Baptist Church, 2201 Knob Creek Road.
The pin oak now measures at 222 inches in circumference, 79-feet high and has a 103-foot crown spread.
“It’s a pin oak and we just assumed that ... it wouldn’t be the biggest in the state, so we didn’t really look it up until recently,” Walding said. “We kind of do our own measurements. We do measurements around the trunk about breast height, and then the width of the canopy from end of branch to end of branch on either side and then lastly a height measurement. The state’s Department of Agriculture’s Forestry Division has a formula they put those numbers into and you get ... a big number.”
The third tree, a southern catalpa, 216 inches in circumference and 86-feet high with an 85-foot crown spread, was located on the grounds of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center at Mountain Home close by the walking trail near the fountain pond.
“Just the history of it. Just realizing that trees like this were around 120-150 years ago and you just kind of think of what things were like back then, so it’s different. It’s neat,” Walding said. “The whole thing is just (to) kind of bring attention to the value of trees and just kind appreciate what it takes to get trees this size.”
Now living at her grandmother’s home, Wade was thrilled when the tree was recognized by Aaron Noblet, a Tree and Landscape board member, while checking on a maple tree Wade thought was dying.
She said the fir tree, at 94 inches in circumference and 73-feet high with a 33-feet crown spread, was planted by her grandmother just after her grandparents built the house in 1914.
“She ordered the seed from a catalog and this is a western species of tree ... that normally does not grow to this height and normally is not found in this area,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons that it is considered a significant find, for this to be a state record.”
Having already received her certificate verifying that her tree is a state champion, Wade said she’s pretty excited to have a tree that’s No. 1.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “It’s pretty special.”
For information on the state’s Champion Tree program, visit www.state.tn.us/agriculture/forestry/championtrees.shtml.