Verbena tree declared one of the largest of its kind

Published 5:25 pm Monday, July 29, 2013

Lee Roy Dennis, who lives in Verbena off County Road 23, owns a post oak tree  that was named one of the 2013 champions for Alabama's Champion Tree program.

Lee Roy Dennis, who lives in Verbena off County Road 23, owns a post oak tree that was named one of the 2013 champions for Alabama’s Champion Tree program.

When Lee Roy Dennis read in a farmer’s bulletin an excerpt about Alabama’s Champion Tree program, he called to see if his post oak tree might be considered.

“I saw the excerpt about the program and I thought I would go ahead and call to see if the tree in my yard might qualify,” Dennis said.

The purpose of the Champion Tree program is to discover, recognize and preserve the largest tree of each species in Alabama.

Anyone can nominate a tree for the program but an Alabama Forestry Commission (AFC) forester is responsible for collecting the tree’s measurements.

Dennis lives in Verbena off County Road 23 and has lived on family property for close to 80 years.

Dennis said he has few memories of the tree as a child other than the tree “sitting in the pasture,” but the roughly 100-foot tree was named one of the 2013 champions for the post oak variety.

“It is a unique thing to be recognized for this,” Dennis said.

A total of 27 trees were nominated for 2013 and an AFC forester Brian Hendricks went and measured Dennis’ tree factoring in three components: circumference, height and crown spread.

The formula used to determine the size of the tree is one point for each inch of circumference, plus one point for each foot of height, plus one point for each four feet of the average crown spread.

Those calculating the points for the Champion Tree program measure the height of the tree using a Clinometer, a tool used for measuring angles of elevation.

For a tree to be eligible for the Champion Tree program it must be a species that is recognized as native or naturalized in Alabama.

A naturalized tree is an “introduced” species that has established itself in the wild, reproducing naturally and spreading.

Hendricks said the post oak is a common species in the Southern United States and is a member of the white oak family.

“It is a pretty common tree and is normally found on your dryer sites,” Hendricks said.

Dennis is now currently tied with two other post oak trees in Alabama who have the same score.

“It is nice to be recognized,” Dennis said. “The tree produces a lot of brown leaves during the fall.”

The mission of the AFC is to protect and sustain Alabama’s forest resources using professionally applied stewardship principals and education, ensuring that the state’s forests contribute to abundant timber and wildlife, clean air and water and a healthy economy.

To learn more about the AFC or the Champion Tree program, visit