Tullahoma is home to a State Champion Tree, according to City Forrester Lyle Russell.
A Willow Oak tree on East Lincoln Street was nominated as a contender for State Champion Tree by the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture by Russell last October, he told The News. He and members of the Tullahoma Tree Board learned last week that the East Lincoln Willow Oak, located at 204 E. Lincoln St. behind The Painted House, was named the State Champion Tree by the UTIA Champion Tree Program.
The tree measures 92 feet tall, 255.6 inches in circumference and has a 115.9-foot crown spread
“This is an amazing designation to receive,” Russell said. “Based on the measurements, that puts this tree around 259 years old. It’s seen every bit of Tennessee and Tullahoma’s history and even pre-dates the United States by a few years.
According to Russell, a champion tree candidate is awarded points based upon its trunk circumference, its crown spread and its total height. If the candidate tree is awarded a total point value that exceeds that of a current champion tree by five or more, or there is no current champion tree, that candidate then assumes the title. If the total point value of two trees is within five points, they may share the title as co-champions.
This is the second time this particular quercas phellos—the scientific name of the tree—has been nominated for the distinction.
“About six years ago, we nominated this tree for the Champion title only to find there was already a Willow Oak Champion in Shelby County at that time,” Tree Board Chairman Ralph Graham said. “They told us the Tullahoma tree would be listed next in line should something happen to the current champion.
“Receiving this designation is a delightful surprise.”
The Shelby County Willow Oak is still living; however, the Tullahoma Willow Oak has surpassed it in size since the last time their measurements were taken. The Tullahoma Willow Oak is now 9 feet taller and 15 inches larger in circumference, according to official Champion Tree data.
The tree currently resides on private property—that owned by Painted House owner Annie Rone.
“I take no credit for the magnificent tree in the backyard of The Painted House, but I feel very blessed to get to claim it as mine,” she said of the tree. “The tree’s grandeur is not lost on anyone who visits. I am thrilled that it is being recognized, and I am hopeful it will be visited, loved and respected by many for years to come!”
According to the UT Institute of Agriculture, the champion tree program was launched in the mid-1970s with the intent of identifying and cataloguing the largest native species of trees in East Tennessee. The program has since expanded to accept trees from across the state. In collaboration with the Tennessee Division of Forestry, the UT Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries actively administers the state champion tree program.
A virtual award ceremony crowning the Tullahoma Willow Oak as champion is set for 9:30 a.m. Monday, Sept. 20. The ceremony is open to the public via a registration link. The link may be obtained from Russell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the champion tree program, visit fwf.tennessee.edu/champion-tree.