Winter Highlights: New State Champion Tree


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 in tree height, crown spread and trunk circumference. If two trees score within five points of each other, they are designated as co-champions.

A 1960 tree survey recorded ANC's hackberry as having a trunk diameter of 15 inches. Since then, the tree has only added about six diameter inches of trunk growth.

“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 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 more than 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.