True champions: UM campus home to some of the biggest trees in the state
(Missoula Current) The University of Montana’s campus is home to more than 2,000 trees and serves as the state arboretum. The arboretum showcases trees from eight different forest regions spanning North America and features some very big trees.
Sixteen trees on UM’s campus are considered “champion trees,” meaning they're the biggest of their species in the entire state.
Farmer, rancher, author and self-titled “big tree hunter” Mark Lewing, stopped by the University of Montana on Saturday to lead a tour of the campus’ champion trees.
Measuring big trees has become a major hobby for Lewing. He estimates his name appears under 75% of trees listed in the Montana big tree register.
There is no funding for the Montana big tree registry, so it's maintained by volunteers. Lewing says there are a handful of other big tree hunters in Montana and, in fact, it's one of the best states at keeping up with the records.
"It’s a tool to get people to realize the importance of trees,” Lewing said of the Montana Big Treet Registry. “They do a lot for this environment.”
The arboretum estimates that there is well over 100,000 pounds of carbon stored within the champion trees alone.
When being considered for champion tree status, trees score points based on the circumference of the trunk, crown spread and height. Lewing said a tree can be crowned a champion being either tall and skinny or short and fat.
Three of the arboretum’s champion trees reside within the University Center in the tropical plant collection. Lewing is soon to add another tree to the Montana Big Tree Registry - a kapok tree, native to Central America and parts of Africa also growing inside the University Center.
Lewing measures the kapok tree at 38 feet tall and it will likely become the 17th champion tree at the state of Montana arboretum.
Lewing has been measuring big trees since the 80’s and doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon.
"Just keep your eyes open,” he said of spotting champion trees.
Information on the champion trees at the state of Montana arboretum can be found by following this link.