Common Name: red spruce
Scientific Name: Picea rubens
Native/Naturalized: Native to Virginia
Virginia Champion: yes
Circumference: 136 in.
Height: 115 ft.
Crown: 48 ft.
Date Last Measured: 2013
Last Measured by: Jordan Endahl
Date First Measured: 2003
Comments: Declared national champion in 2019. This tree was found and measured by participants in the 2003 Youth Conservation Camp sponsored by the Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Districts.
It is a double-stemed specimen. Inconclusive evidence as to whether this is a tree that arose from a single seed. The stems physically diverge from each other at about 2.5' above ground, but a bark inclusion seam is evident extending down to within 1' above ground. It is unusual that the seam runs down a buttress root. Bark inclusions usually are in the sinuses between buttress roots. Whether this is an indication of a single tree or two trees is unknown. It is possible that adjacent buttress roots of the adjacent stems converged and grafted, giving the outward appearance of a single buttress root below the seam.
The only plausible mechanism for this being a tree from a single seed is that the seedling was physically injured at a very young age, losing its terminal leader and thereafter two remaining lateral branches reoriented into codominant leaders. Injury to the terminal leader might have been sustained from falling debris, insect pests, vertebrate herbivores, or winter dessication. Red spruce rarely if ever sprouts from stumps or reproduces vegetatively by layering, so that mechanism of codominant leader development is unlikely.
Arguing for the hypothesis of a damaged terminal leader leading to codominant leaders is the fact that the leaders are of very similar height and girth. One of the leaders is slightly smaller, but this could be due to diminished access to light or soil resources relative to its twin. However, this development of the two leaders could also be possible under the scenario of two seeds germinating next to each other during a brief span of years. The scenario of the leaders originating from two seeds is a simpler explanation for the growth habit observed today, although two trees persisting next to each other to reach such size occurs rarely.
When the tree was measured in 2013, the trunk circumference was measured below the trunk fork and just above the taper of the buttress roots, yielding a measurement of 165", which tallies with the height and crown spread shown to a score of 292 points. Individual measurements of each stem in 2020 at 4.5' above ground yielded measurements of 87" and 105", yielding a composite circumference of 136", which tallies with the height and crown spread shown to a score of 263 points. If only the larger stem girth was used in the score (105"), the score would be 232 points. Even this diminished score would rank the tree as the Virginia state champion (depending on whether or not the codominant leader was included in the crown spread measurement - if it's considered a seperate tree, then perhaps not).
For purposes of the state register, the specimen is considered a single tree for now. However, the score has been revised downward using the composite trunk circumference measurement so that there is an equitable comparison with other red spruce measured at 4.5' above ground. Whether American Forests will continue to recognize the tree as national champion is unknown.
Location of Tree
Tree is located in: Giles
Land Owner: U.S. Forest Service
GPS Coordinates: 37.39217, -80.49518
Directions: George Washington & Jefferson National Forests, Eastern Divide Ranger District, War Spur Loop Trail. Follow map - when trail meets creek to the north, tree will be on the other side of the creek, visible from the trail. Map on file.
Contact Name: Eric Wiseman
Contact Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Phone: 540-231-5148
Original Nominator(s): Jim Clark
Other Nominators: Youth Conservation Camp