There are 907 square miles of land within the confines of Wilcox County’s borders and most of that land is covered by thick forests. Those woods are filled with thousands of trees, and out of all those trees, there are 11 that are truly remarkable.
The Alabama Forestry Commission launched its Champion Tree program in 1970, and since that time, 11 special trees in Wilcox County have been designated as Champion Trees and two of those trees have been named National Champion Trees. A Champion Tree is the largest of its species recorded in Alabama as determined by a formula used by the forestry commission. A tree’s total size is determined by its circumference, its height and its average crown spread.
The two National Champion Trees in Wilcox County are a Durand Oak on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers property and a Southern Shagbark Hickory owned by Tommy and Jeanell Lawler. When measured by the forestry commission, the Lawlers’ Southern Shagbark Hickory was 136 feet tall, 94 inches around and had a crown spread of 69 feet. Wilcox’s giant Durand Oak is 107 feet tall, 162 inches around and has a spread of 62 feet. Those two trees aren’t just the largest of their species in Alabama, but also in the entire United States.
According to the forestry commission, the Lawlers own five other Champion Trees, including the state’s largest Two-winged Silverbell, White Ash, Bigleaf Magnolia, Pyramid Magnolia and Chalk Maple. Their White Ash is 105 feet tall, 115 inches around and has a spread of 58 feet, and their Pyramid Magnolia is 92 feet tall, 41 inches around and has a spread of 24 feet.
The Lawlers’ Two-winged Silverbell is 72 feet tall, 42 inches around and has a spread of 27 feet. Their Bigleaf Magnolia is 58 feet tall, 42 inches around and has a spread of 37 feet, and their Chalk Maple is 44 feet tall, 42 inches around and has a spread of 35 feet.
Other Champion Trees in Wilcox County include a Winged Elm owned by Kinley Bell, a Crape Myrtle owned by Malcolm Smith, an Eastern Red Cedar owned by John and Lou Harmon, and a Green Ash owned by the Allyrae Wallace Educational Trust.
The Green Ash belonging to the Educational Trust is 88 feet tall, 177 inches around and has a spread of 84 feet. Bell’s Winged Elm is 85 feet tall, 142 inches around and has a spread of 74 feet. The Eastern Red Cedar belonging to the Harmons is 52 feet tall, is 179 inches around and has a spread of 27 feet. Smith’s Crape Myrtle is 43 feet tall, 78 inches around and has a spread of 33 feet.
I think it’s also worth pointing out that Wilcox County has more Champion Trees than any other county in Alabama with the exception of Baldwin County and Madison County. Baldwin County, said to be the largest county geographically east of the Mississippi River, has 17 Champion Trees and two National Champions. Madison County has 12 Champion Trees but no National Champions.
In the end, if you’re interested in learning more about the Alabama Forestry Commission’s Champion Tree Program, visit the commission’s Web site at www.forestry.alabama.gov. Anyone can nominate a tree for Champion Tree status, so if you think you know of a tree that might be in the running for this honor, fill out the online nomination form on the commission’s Web site. Once you’ve completed the form, the commission will dispatch a forester to the tree’s location, where he’ll take the tree’s official measurements.