ARLINGTON, Va. – A Dwarf Hackberry growing in Section 8 of Arlington National Cemetery (ANC) is the most recent addition to ANC’s list of state champion and co-champion trees. Two sets of measurements were required in a contest that involved two other hackberries at ANC and four other trees growing in Alexandria, Virginia, one of which included the reigning champion.
The other champion trees at ANC are the State Champion Royal Paulownia, State Champion Yellowwood, State Co-Champion Sawtooth Oak, and State Co-Champion Pin Oak. In order to be considered a champion, co-champion, or to make the top five list for a tree species, the tree needs to rank highest with regards to tree height, crown spread, and trunk circumference. If two trees score within five points of each other, they are designated co-champions.
The Hackberry at ANC was recorded as having a trunk diameter of 15 inches in the tree survey done by Jack McMillan in 1960. The tree has only added six diameter inches of trunk growth in 57 years.
“We’re proud to be the home of five Virginia Champion and Co-Champion trees here at ANC," said ANC Urban Forester Greg Huse. "It was amazing to find that in 57 years, the tree had only added six inches of diameter growth, a true testament to its designation as a dwarf tree species.”
The cemetery was excited to realize they had discovered what they thought was a new one with the Dwarf Hackberry. After their three Dwarf Hackberries were measured on two separate occasions, they were compared to the existing Virginia State Champion, which was also re-measured at that time. The ANC tree tallied a total score within just one point of the title holder, making this tree a Co-Champ.
Dwarf Hackberry (Celtis tenuifolia) is a small tree or shrub in the elm family that typically grows three to 12 feet in height, but can reach up to 30+ feet. It is multi-branched, with stiff twigs and smooth grey bark that becomes ridged and knotted as the plant ages. The dwarf hackberry fruit is orange-brown and globular with a sweet outer layer and contains a single seed.
Virginia Tech manages the Virginia Big Tree Program and Arlington County manages a more local Arlington County Champion Tree Program. Both websites host information and photos of the cemetery's champion trees.
The cemetery is proud to preserve and interpret this iconic landscape for generations to come and has been increasing its level of outreach to educate visitors on its robust horticulture program. Visit the cemetery’s website at https://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/Explore/Memorial-Arboretum-and-Horticulture/Trees to learn more about the cemetery’s horticulture program and Memorial Arboretum.