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Red hickory tree in Butler County crowned state champion

A red hickory tree in Butler County was crowned state champion, courtesy of officials with the Alabama Forestry Commission.  The tree is also a likely candidate for national recognition.

A red hickory tree in Butler County was crowned state champion, courtesy of officials with the Alabama Forestry Commission. The tree is also a likely candidate for national recognition.

Alabama is no stranger to national championships.

The University of Alabama and Auburn University have combined to win four of the last six college football national championships.

But soon, the state may be celebrating an entirely different sort of national championship.

Officials with the Alabama Forestry Commission recently crowned a red hickory tree in Butler County as the state champion, and Brian Hendricks, forest inventory and analysis coordinator, believes the tree will earn national champion status.

“Not only is this a state champion, but it will likely be a national co-champion,” Hendricks said.

Alabama’s Champion Tree program aims to discover, recognize and preserve the largest tree of each species in Alabama.

Anyone can nominate a tree for Champion Tree designation; however, an Alabama Forestry Commission forester is responsible for collecting the tree’s measurements. When determining a champion, three of the tree’s components are taken into consideration: circumference, height and crown spread.

For a tree to be eligible, it must be a species that is recognized as native or naturalized in Alabama. A naturalized tree is from an introduced species that has established itself in the wild, reproducing naturally and spreading.

Butler County’s red hickory is located at the rest area on the Interstate 65 North.

It measured 128 inches around, 115 feet tall and had an average crown spread of 69 feet.

The tree was nominated for Champion Tree status by Wayne K. Webb. It’s owned by the State of Alabama.

Once a new champion is identified, both its owner and nominator receive a certificate. Additionally, AFC county personnel present the nominator with a permanent tree marker to be placed in proximity to the base of the tree. New champions are added to the AFC’s “Champion Trees” publication which can be found on the AFC website.

Alabama now has a total of 148 champions distributed throughout 49 of its 67 counties. Baldwin County holds claim to the most champions in the state with 17, followed by Madison County with 12 and Wilcox County, which has 11 champions.