Big Tree Hunters Search For Champions | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

WAMU 88.5 : News

Filed Under:

Big Tree Hunters Search For Champions

Play associated audio
A recently dethroned Kentucky Coffee Tree.
Donna Will
A recently dethroned Kentucky Coffee Tree.

Retired teacher Joe Howard says there's nothing quite like a really big tree. "Big trees can take your breath way. When you think of how big trees have been around longer than any of us, what they’ve been through and how they’ve weathered adversity and are still going strong, you can’t help but admire them," he says.

For the past 20 years, Joe and his friend Donna Will have been driving across Montgomery County in search of trees to nominate to the National Register, which evaluates champions for each species according to their circumference, height and spread.

Howard, a retired teacher, says there's nothing quite like a really big tree.

"Big trees can take your breath way," he says. "When you think of how big trees have been around longer than any of us, what they've been through and how they’ve weathered adversity and are still going strong, you can't help but admire them."

Will says Howard will call her when he's identified a big tree.

"I have my jeep at the ready, and my camera set, and my batteries and I hop in," says Howard. "Just about every week, we're out and about hunting the big trees."

He says he always carries his measuring tape with him.

"It's gotten me to stop traffic sometimes, if a tree is along the road," he says. And he says his proudest find was a thorny tree on the edge of Rock Creek Regional Park.

"This is a Cockspur Hawthorn," he says. "This is a tree I nominated that finally got my name in the National Register of Champion Trees."

As it turns out, Howard says another tree has dethroned his Hawthorn to become champion this year.

"In a way, I'm sad. In another way, I'm glad," he says. "I love that people keep looking for big trees."

Will says being a Big Tree Hunter isn't just about competition. It's about conservation.

"It's very important to keep an eye out for these big trees because when the public becomes aware of them, they stay safer," she says.

But Howard says he's still in it to win it. And there’s a tree down the street he's pretty sure will be a champion next year.

NPR

An 'Epilogue' That Makes Sense Of The Chaos Of Memory

In his episodic memoir, Will Boast meets the siblings he never knew while navigating family deaths and secrets. Critic Ellah Allfrey finds Epilogue conceptually ambitious, but lacking in execution.
NPR

Giving Chickens Bacteria ... To Keep Them Antibiotic-Free

What does it take to get chickens off antibiotics? According to Perdue Farms, an added dose of the "good bacteria" known as probiotics can help crowd out the harmful microbes that make a chicken sick.
NPR

Why Did Congress Kick The Can On Funding Islamic State Mission?

The president got approval for his plan to train and equip Syrian opposition fighters, but lawmakers didn't approve funds to pay for it or the broader air campaign.
NPR

Some Tech Firms Capitalize On Privacy

Steve Henn of NPR's Planet Money team profiles some entrepreneurs who are working on a novel business model to start up a new tech company. It's pay for service. What a concept.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.