Being from Nebraska, one thing I’ve heard all of my life from outsiders is: “So Nebraska is pretty much just cows and corn, right?” My normal response is an eye roll and a sigh as I explain, “No, it’s not all cornfields and cows… there is boundless diversity of flora and fauna across our great state.” One area in particular in which we see abundant diversity is our native trees. Nebraska is home to roughly 50 native species of trees ranging from hardy ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) to fruit-producing paw paws (Asimina triloba).
In addition to its diversity of trees, this Great Plains state also has some amazingly enormous specimens. The Nebraska Forest Service has compiled a list, updated annually, of all the state champion trees – those that are the largest of their species. The list includes the location, height and trunk circumference of numerous hefty trees across the state.
As a UNL alumnus, I’m proud that five of the ten state champion trees found in Lincoln grow on or very close to the two UNL campuses, which is likely the result of the strong horticultural history associated with the university. When I was a student, one of my favorite things to do was to hammock outside the Student Union in the spring and look at all the budding trees, flowering and buzzing with life. I also loved walking around east campus during the fall and seeing the mosaic of yellows, oranges and reds against the baby blue October sky. The landscapes and tree diversity present on the campuses always put a smile on my face, even in my toughest hours. They made me proud to be a Cornhusker.
I compiled this list of state champion trees in Lincoln in the hopes that it will inspire others to notice and appreciate the natural beauty that abounds in Lincoln and on the university campuses.
State Champion Trees in Lincoln, Nebraska:
Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) — height: 56 feet, circumference: 13 feet; located at the North end of Maxwell Arboretum on UNL's East Campus
River birch (Betula nigra) — height: 62 feet, circumference: 6 feet; located at 3401 Pershing St.
Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) — height: 45 feet, circumference: 4.42 feet; located at St. John’s Catholic Church, 7601 Vine St.
American elm (Ulmus americana) — height: 70 feet, circumference: 18.5 feet; located at Idylwild Park (near 33rd and Vine streets)
Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila) — height: 88 feet, circumference: 17 feet; located at 40th and Holdrege streets, UNL East Campus
Honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos) — height: 85 feet, circumference: 14.5 feet; located at 3256 Holdrege St.
Silver maple (Acer saccharinum) — height: 76 feet; circumference: 25.9 feet; located at Hillcrest Country Club
Northern red oak (Quercus rubra) — height: 80 feet, circumference: 15.5 feet; located at the corner of 34th and Starr streets
Pin oak (Quercus palustris) — height: 115 feet, circumference: 15.6 feet; located on Woods Ave.
Shingle oak (Quercus imbricaria) — height: 62 feet, circumference: 7.17 feet; located on UNL City Campus