Oswego County Planning and Community Development

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Entries must include basic measurements of the trees which are total height, circumference (the distance around the trunk) and average crown spread.

1.) Circumference

Using a tape or a string, measure, in inches, the circumference or girth of the tree at a point 4-1/2 feet above the base.

Note: If there is a branch or a growth on the trunk at 4-1/2 feet, take the measurement above this point. For trees on a slope, measure from the uphill side. For multiple trunks, treat as one tree only if the fork is above 4-1/2 feet.

2.) Height

You will need to find the tree's total height in feet. This is from the top to the bottom - the vertical distance between a horizontal plane passing through the center of the tree's base and a horizontal plane passing through its highest twig. While the most accurate measurements are made with specialized equipment, here's a simple method that provides an estimated measurement.

While standing under the tree hold a stick 3 or 4 feet in length in a vertical manner at arm's length. Grasp the stick so that the length of the stick above your hand equals the distance from your hand to your eye (your hand should be at eye level). Next, slowly walk backwards from the tree, staying level with the tree's base. When the height of the tree appears to be the same as the length of the stick above your hand, stop. You should now be sighting over your hand to the base of the tree and, without moving anything but your eye, sighting over the top of the stick to the top of the tree where you have stopped. Measure the distance from that spot to the tree and you have determined its height.

Determining Height Diagram

3.) Average crown spread

You can determine the average crown spread of the tree by tracing an outline o the tree's crown on the ground, then tapping wood stakes into the ground beneath the outermost tips of the branches. A string with a plumb bob or other weight tied to its end can be used to accurately locate the stakes directly below the outermost points of the limbs.

Drawing two imaginary horizontal lines through the center of the trunk measure the distance between the two stakes farthest apart and the two stakes closest together on opposite sides of the tree. Add these two measurements, divide by two and you will have the average spread of the tree's crown.

Crown Spread Diagram

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For more information on the Big Tree Search, contact:

Dick Drosse
(315) 343-4565


"Big Tree Search"
Oswego County SWCD . 3095 State Route 3 . Fulton, NY 13069