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Big tree travel: the inside scoop on who has the most big trees and where to find champs when you might least expect to.

If you're looking to maximize your big tree viewing pleasure, our best advice is head west or south, since that's where you'll find the top five states for champion trees: Florida (with 163), California (102), Arizona (84), Texas (80), and Virginia (56).

Don't have time to meander the arboreal offerings of an entire state? We can help there too. Below we've compiled a list of sites that lay claim to enhanced big tree bragging rights: multiple titleholders within their boundaries. And, just for fun, we've thrown in a list of unique places where you can find national champions.

With 34 champs in four national forests and a national monument, Arizona's a good place to start. Throw in three additional titleholders at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum and five others among our list of unique sites, and we're packing the sunscreen.

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* Coronado National Forest

Stretching across southeastern Arizona and south-western New Mexico, the 1.78 million-acre Coronado National Forest boasts a landscape that ranges from mountains to desert, but here's a sameness big tree hunters will appreciate--a whopping 13 national champs: Arizona pine, Santa Catalina Mountains, 294 pts.; Silverleaf oak, 256 pts.; Apache pine, two co-champs in Mt. Wrightson Wilderness Area, 246 and 243 pts.; Arizona madrone, East Sawmill Canyon, 230 pts.; Netleaf oak, Santa Catalina Mountains, 144 pts.; Border pinyon pine, Pusch Ridge Wilderness Area, 105 pts.; Toumey oak, 103 pts.; Chihuahua ash, 86 pts.; Goodding ash, 61 pts.; Hairy cercocarpus, 56 pts.; Mearns sumac, 49 pts.; Sandpaper oak, 38 pts.

* Coconino National Forest

Arizona's Coconino National Forest bills itself as one of the country's most diverse national forests. A half-dozen national champs reside in what the U.S. Forest Service describes as a "pine-covered plateau cut by deep canyons" and bordered by a 1,000-foot cliff. Located near Flagstaff, Coconino comprises more than 1.8 million acres, so ask directions before starting your big tree search. Here's your list: Arizona sycamore, 435 pts.; Gambel oak, 341 pts.; Arizona smooth cypress, 298 pts.; New Mexico locust, co-champ, 166 pts.; Pringle manzanita, two co-champs, each 59 pts.

* Tonto & Prescott National Forests

With five and six national champs respectively, Tonto (nearly 3 million acres) and Prescott (1.25 million acres) national forests lie next to each other in Arizona west of Coconino and north of Coronado. Tonto is the fifth largest forest in the U.S. with vistas ranging from piney mountains to cactus and desert. With such a varied landscape, it's no wonder Tonto is one of the nation's most-visited forests. Here are another five reasons to go: Canyon maple, 227 pts.; co-champ New Mexico locust, 168 pts.; Sugar sumac, Superstition Wilderness Area, 105 pts.; co-champ Saguaro, 143 pts.; Yellow-elder, 48 pts.

Desert vegetation dominates at Prescott, so expect chaparral, pinyon pine, juniper, and Ponderosa pine. Look also for the following national champs: alligator juniper, three co-champs, two at 384 pts. and one, on Granite Mountain, at 386 pts.; Lowell ash, 97 pts.; co-champ Canotia canotia, 80 pts.; California buckthorn, 56 pts.

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* Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

At Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona, it's all about the Sonoran Desert. The plants and animals that live here are able to survive harsh sunlight, extreme temperatures, and little rainfall. The monument has been designated an United Nations' International Biosphere Reserve, a testament to what the National Park Service calls "an outstanding natural preserve where one of the Earth's major ecosystems survives almost unspoiled." Look for these four national champions amid the desert life: Redberry juniper, 155 pts.; Torrey vauquelinia, 135 pts.; Ajo oak, 127 pts.; Holacantha holacantha, 69 pts.

* Boyce Thompson/Morton arboretums

These two arboretums promote care of and appreciation for numerous species. Each houses three national champs. Morton, near Chicago, was founded in 1922 by Joy Morton, owner of the Morton Salt Co. and eldest son of Arbor Day founder and former AMERICAN FORESTS president J. Sterling Morton. Look there for three Hawthorns: Broadleaf, 83 pts.; Kansas, 62 pts.; Fireberry, 30 pts. Boyce Thompson, in Superior, Arizona, was founded by mining magnate Col. William Boyce Thompson in the 1920s. Its champs are: Longbeak eucalyptus, 404 pts.; Allthorn, 55 pts.; Florida mayten, 48 pts.

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* Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Across the country and a world away ecologically, Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddles the border between North Carolina and Tennessee. Stretching over more than 800 square miles in the southern Appalachian Mountains, the park is home to more than 10,000 documented plant, animal, and invertebrate species. The Park Service's website says scientists think another 90,000 species may live there. The Smokies are among the world's oldest mountains, dating back some 200 million to 300 million years and have been designated an United Nations International Biosphere Reserve. Almost 95 percent of the park is forested--about a quarter in old-growth--and there are 100 species of native trees. The Smokies also are home to a dozen national champions from this year's National Register. But take heed, if it's champions you're after, head to the Tennessee side. There are no known champions in the North Carolina portion of the Smokies. Here's what to look for in Tennessee: Red maple, 439 pts.; Yellow buckeye, Gabes Mount Trail, 378 pts.; Eastern hemlock, 377 pts.; Red hickory, 327 pts.; Black cherry, 314 pts.; Carolina silverbell, 273 pts.; Frasier magnolia, 247 pts.; Allegheny serviceberry, 188 pts.; Pin cherry, 143 pts.; Striped maple, Trillium Gap Trail, 129 pts.; Devils-walking-stick, 101 pts.; Mountain laurel, 78 pts.

* Olympic National Park

Ninety-five percent of Washington's Olympic National Park is designated wilderness; it became a World Heritage Site in 1981. Known for biological diversity, Olympic features glacier-capped mountains and stunning old-growth trees. It's also home to eight huge national champs: Western redcedar, 931 pts.; Sitka spruce, 883 pts.; Coast Douglas-fir, 809 pts.; Alaska-cedar, 588 pts.; Western hemlock, 3 co-champs, 549, 528, 523 pts.; Pacific silver fir, 487 pts.

* Unique Sites to Find National Champs

Moving from deep woods to deep thinking, there are a couple of state capitols that boast a national perspective: California's state Capitol grounds, Sacramento: three co-champ California fanpalms (208, 209, and 212 pts.); Washington's state Capitol grounds, Olympia: English oak, 318 pts. And don't forget the newly minted national champ Jujube on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC (167 pts.).

On the educational front, national champs seem popular among those hitting the books. If you're in the area, look for these champs: Central Arizona College: Littleleaf lysiloma, 97 pts.; University of Arizona (3): Huajillo huajillo, 66 pts.; Gregg ash, 51 pts.; Sour orange, campus arboretum, 46 pts.; Stanford University, California: Joshua-tree, 227 pts.; Reitz Memorial High School, Evansville, Indiana: Royal Paulownia, 359 pts.; Frederick High School, Frederick, Maryland: Slippery elm, 358 pts.

Big trees can live where you might not expect them. Look sharp at the following sites: Tucson Medical Center, Arizona: Indian-fig, 54 pts. St. Mary's Star of the Sea Church & School, Key West, Florida (5): West Indies mahogany, 278 pts.; co-champ Gumbo-limbo, 178 pts.; Roughbark lignumvitae, 78 pts.; Tamarind, 263 pts.; Torchwood, 44 pts. Atascosa County Jail, Texas: Huisache, 203 pts. Follow-Me Golf Course, Ft. Benning, Georgia: co-champ Darlington Oak, 354 pts.

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Michelle Robbins is editor of American Forests.
COPYRIGHT 2004 American Forests
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Recreation
Author:Robbins, Michelle
Publication:American Forests
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2004
Words:1205
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