New England trees often seem large, especially when leaning over our homes. However, compared to old growth forests found in the rest of the country, the trees in our area are generally quite small. Not often will a person find trees in Connecticut much older than 100 years. This lack of virgin forest, a term used to describe areas not disturbed by logging and development, is due to the agricultural society which consumed the northeast until around 200 years ago. The size of a tree is generally related its age. However, all species of tree have different rates and habits. Some species are understory trees, comprising the lower level of the forest, and remain relatively small, while others are large canopy trees and grow incredibly tall. Fortunately, a list of trees that have reached a notable or champion size for their particular species in Connecticut has been compiled by the Connecticut College Arboretum.
In the late 1980 s the Connecticut Botanical Society, under the leadership of Glenn Dryer, set out to inventory all of the native and ornamental big trees of Connecticut and published their findings in a small book entitled Connecticut's Notable Trees. Written by Dryer, it was published in 1989 as the Memoirs of the Connecticut Botanical Society, No. 2 by the Society and Covered Bridge Press. This publication provides a wealth of information not only Connecticut's largest trees, but also trees of historic significance. You may also visit the Connecticut College Arboretum website for a current list of notable trees and their most recent measurements.
The Bartlett Arboretum has over 20 trees of notable or champion status, many of which were planted by F.A. Bartlett when the property was used as the research laboratory of the Bartlett Tree Company. Over the years, several of our Champion trees have been damaged or destroyed by storms, but many notable trees remain, including eight Champion trees and one Co-champion. These trees have been preserved through research and conservation efforts.
Many national, state, and local agencies have been organized to record the size and locations of large specimens of the different taxa that can be grown in the northeast. Connecticut’s milder climate, compared to much of New England, enables many species which are less hardy, and therefore more rare, species to be grown here. Connecticut College works closely with the Connecticut Botanical Society and both organizations rely on local groups and citizens to report large specimen trees.
To judge the trees, the American Forestry Association (AFA) point method of measuring and comparing trees is commonly followed:
Trunk circumference (in inches 4-5’ above ground) Height (feet) 1/4 Average crown spread (feet) = Total AFA Points
Trees with the highest number of points, of their species, may earn national or state distinction as Champion or Notable trees. Champion trees are the largest of their species, and Notable trees are larger than most of their species.
Bartlett Champions Trees
Acer saccharum "Newtons Sentry" - Newtons Sentry Sugar Maple
Eucommia ulmoides - Hardy Rubber Tree
Liquidambar styraciflua variegata - Variegated Sweet Gum
Pinus koraiensis - Korean Pine
Pterostyrax hispida - Epaulette Tree
Quercus michauxii - Swamp Chestnut Oak
Stewartia pseudocamellia - Japanese Stewartia
Taxus cuspidata - Japanese Yew
Tsuga diversifolia - Northern Japanese Hemlock
Oxydendrum arboreum* - Sourwood (Co-Champion)
Bartlett Notable Trees
Carpinus betulus - European Hornbeam
Carya illinoensis - Pecan
Cedrus libani - Cedar of Lebanon
Cercidiphyllum japonicum - Katsura Tree
Cercis canadensis - Eastern Redbud
Chamaecyparis pisifera squarrosa - Squarrosa False-Cypress
Fagus sylvatica fastigiata - Dawyck Beech
Juglans ailantifolia cordiformis - Heartnut
Larix kaempferi - Japanese Larch
Quercus palustris - Pin Oak
Quercus variabilis - Chinese Cork Oak
Syringa reticulata - Japanese Tree Lilac
Viburnum sieboldii - Siebold Viburnum
Zelkova serrata- Japanese Zelkova
Information about potentially notable trees in Connecticut can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail to:
Notable Trees Committee
Connecticut College Arboretum
270 Mohegan Avenue
New London, CT 06320