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ReLeaf Michigan, a non-profit tree planting and education organization, celebrated the conclusion of its 14th biennial Michigan Big Tree Hunt contest on Saturday, Nov.23 at an awards ceremony at the Chippewa Nature Center in Midland. The contest, which awards participants for identifying the biggest trees in Michigan, began in spring of 2018 and ended earlier this fall.

   More than 700 entries were sent in from people all across the state, including 80 of Michigan’s 83 counties. There were no contest winners this year from the greater Fenton area.

   The winning entry for each county was verified on-site by professional arborists, foresters from tree services, consulting firms and government agencies throughout the state.

   The largest trees in the state were found in all sorts of places, including backyards, local parks, cemeteries and hiking trails. Due to many trees being on private property, the specific location of every winning tree is not made public.

   Saturday’s closing ceremony was attended by nearly 100 people, who drove from all over the state to share in their appreciation of Michigan’s trees.

   “The interactions were priceless,” said Melinda Jones, executive director of ReLeaf Michigan. “It’s moments like this that remind us why we have such a passion for what we do.”

   Jones recounted some of her favorite attendees, including a 90-year-old, whose daughter said that the winning tree had “made his year,” and a very young girl who, when coming up to receive her award, exclaimed, “That’s me!” when she saw the picture of her and her big tree on the projector screen.

   Certificates and prizes were awarded for the largest tree submitted from each county, for the overall largest tree in different age groups, and for new potential state champion trees.

   The largest tree in Michigan was submitted by James Wegner, a Red Oak measuring 384 inches around (more than 32 feet), located in the city of Marion in Osceola County.

   The largest White Pine (Michigan’s state tree) was submitted by Heather Sewell. It measured 204 inches around and is located in the community of Askel in Houghton County.

   The largest tree from a Big Tree Hunter 15 years or younger was submitted by Stephanie and Patrick Bushey, who submitted a Cottonwood found in Saline, measuring 312 inches around.

   Twenty-three trees submitted for the contest qualified as new state champion trees and were submitted to the Big Tree Coordinator of Michigan.  (Note: Trees already listed in the Michigan Big Tree Register were not eligible for prizes.) A complete list of winners is available on BigTreeHunt.com.

   ReLeaf Michigan began the Michigan Big Tree Hunt in 1993 to celebrate our state’s beauty and create a fun way to gather information about Michigan’s biggest trees. The contest is an opportunity for all age groups to get outside, enjoy trees and help track these vital historical living landmarks.

   The contest also helps discover eligible trees for the National Register of Big Trees, which is updated every spring and fall by American Forests. Michigan currently has only one registered National Champion.  Since there are nearly 200 tree species that don’t yet have registered champions, the Big Tree Hunt is a great opportunity to get Michigan trees noticed nationwide.

   ReLeaf Michigan’s Big Tree Hunt contest is sponsored by the Arboriculture Society of Michigan, Consumers Energy Foundation, the DTE Energy Foundation, the Michigan Botanical Foundation, AdventureKEEN, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources–Urban and Community Forestry Program.

   For more information about the Big Tree Hunt, including pictures and the list of winners by county, visit the ReLeaf Michigan’s Big Tree Hunt webpage at BigTreeHunt.com. The next biennial contest will begin in the spring of 2020 and conclude in the winter of 2021. For more information, email mjones@releafmichigan.org or call (800) 642-7353. 

About ReLeaf Michigan

   ReLeaf Michigan is a statewide volunteer non-profit 501(c)(3) tree planting and education organization. Its mission is to educate the public on the value of trees and how to properly select, plant and maintain them. Its board is made up primarily of arborists, foresters and researchers who are passionate about preserving one of Michigan’s greatest resources: trees.

   Since 1988, ReLeaf Michigan has worked with more than 400 communities across the state, planting nearly 30,000 trees on public property in Michigan’s cities, townships and villages. Unlike most tree planting organizations, ReLeaf Michigan plants trees that are already substantial in size, resulting in a higher survival rate and more immediate environmental impact.

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