BEULAH – The largest tree found in the Five County area is a cotton poplar in rural Benzie County.
Bowen Hebel submitted the poplar (scientific name populus deltoides) to the biennial ReLeaf Michigan Big Tree Hunt competition after he and his family discovered it near their church. Hebel said he had read information about the contest online and decided to give it a try.
âI was like, ‘Well, hell, I know a pretty big tree,’ Hebel said.
Indeed, he did. It is the largest reported in the competition in the region.
The Benzie County winning poplar submitted by Hebel can be found at the intersection of Eden Hill and Worden Roads in rural Beulah. His family drives weekly to services at Eden Bible Church, he said.
âIt’s a big, big poplar,â Hebel said.
The tree measures 246 inches in circumference.
Hebel and his children had explored the poplar before, stopping to take photos near the huge tree last year. Since he already had the photos, he decided to enter the ReLeaf Michigan competition when he saw his ad online, he said.
In neighboring Grand Traverse County, Jerry Solanics, a resident of the Grawn area, presented the largest tree in the area, a 230-inch black willow on his property in Blair Township.
Solanics said he recently paid arborists to cut down some of the tree’s branches that had grown and collapsed. The tree cutters seemed to think it was a pretty big tree, he said, so he submitted it to the statewide competition.
âWe need to pay more attention to the trees, in my opinion,â Solanics said.
He said the black willow was among the canopy of other trees, near two tall white pines, at the back of his one-acre plot on West Silver Lake Road, near the intersection with the Silver Sunrise Trail .
Another impressive specimen in the area is the black walnut on land owned by Troy and Lori Martin in Banks Township. They watched closely, trying to put their arms around her, but couldn’t touch their fingertips, she said.
âHe said ‘I feel like a tree schoolboy’ and I said ‘right now you are’,â Lori Martin said with a laugh.
The 115-inch-diameter black walnut won the title of Largest Tree in County Antrim. It sits on the edge of a fallow field, not far from a nearby horse pasture along Scott Road.
Lori Martin said she suspected the tree was up to 200 years old.
âBlack nuts just don’t grow that fast,â she said.
Other large local trees that entered the contest included a 215-inch silver maple found in Empire by Beth Weber, named the tallest in County Leelanau, as well as a 104-inch white pine found in Kalkaska by Vicki Patterson , the largest found in Kalkaska County. .
The largest tree in the state was a red oak found in Osceola County that measured 384 inches in diameter, or over 32 feet. The largest white pine, which is the state tree of Michigan, was found in Houghton County and measured 204 inches in diameter.
Named county winners across the state have been found in backyards, parks, cemeteries, and along hiking trails. Nearly two dozen trees entered in the competition were qualified as new state champion trees and were submitted to the Michigan Big Tree Register.
The competition allows the discovery of eligible specimens for the National Register of Large Trees.
The nonprofit ReLeaf Michigan started the Biennial Tree Hunt in 1993 to celebrate the beauty of the state and create a fun way to gather information on Michigan’s tallest trees. The competition also encourages outdoor exploration to find living landmarks.
The most recent competition started in the spring of 2018 and ended this fall. There were over 700 entries from 80 of Michigan’s 83 counties.
The winning entries from each county were verified and measured by professional arborists, foresters, consultants or government officials.
ReLeaf Michigan is a tree planting and education organization whose mission is to educate the public about the value of trees and how to select, plant and care for them.
The group’s next big tree hunt begins in spring 2020 and will continue until the end of 2021.
More information about the competition can be found at www.bigtreehunt.com online.