New Canaan’s Champion Tree Project

New Canaan is home to some incredible trees, and we need your help to find the biggest ones around town. Launched on the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, NCLT created the Champion Tree Project as a fun way for residents to learn about the big trees in their neighborhood and to collect data about the size, species, and location of these magnificent specimens.

We invite participants from across New Canaan to submit information about large trees they find. Trees can be located in your backyard, or you can take a trip to a Land Trust property, town park, or other open space and measure trees there. As long as the tree is in New Canaan, it can be submitted for this project.

Entry Rules

  • For each submission, you will be asked to provide:
    • The tree species
    • A measurement of the tree’s circumference, in inches
    • A measurement of the tree’s heigh, in feet
    • The tree’s location
    • A photo of the tree
  • Instructions on how to make these measurements are provided, below
  • Trees must be located in New Canaan, CT.
  • All ages are welcome to participate and submit their trees.
  • Multiple submissions are welcome, especially for different tree species.
  • Consider using #NCChampionTrees and tagging @NC_Land_Trust on social media.



FAQs and Additional Information

How do I identify trees?
The best way to identify a tree is to use a guide with a dichotomous key. A dichotomous key will ask you either/or questions to help you narrow down your options (for example, does the tree have leaves or needles). After working your way through these questions, you will only be left with a few possible options, and the guide will provide you with photos or other information to further hone in on your species. For beginners, we recommend THIS publication from the Urban Resources Initiative (the dichotomous key can be found on page 17), and for more advanced users, the Peterson Field Guide to Eastern Trees.

How do I measure circumference?
For this project, we are interested in measuring the circumference of the tree’s trunk. This measurement should be taken 4.5 feet above the ground, to normalize for factors like root flare that might give you an incorrectly large measurement. On a nice straight tree, this is an easy measurement to record, but what do you do if the tree has multiple trunks? If the tree’s trunks split above 4.5 feet, you should take a single measurement at the narrowest part of the trunk, measured between the split and the ground. If the trunks split below 4.5 feet, you should measure each trunk individually at the 4.5-foot mark, then take the square root of the sum of the squared circumference measurements.

How do I measure tree height?
Tree heigh can be roughly measured using a stick and a bit of math. Find a straight stick and break it so that the stick is the same length as your arm. Hold your arm out straight with the stick pointing straight up (90-degree angle to your outstretched arm). Walk backwards until you see the tip of the stick line up with the top of the tree AND the base of our hand line up with the bottom of the tree. Your feet are now at approximately the same distance from the tree as the tree is high. Simply measure the distance between you and the base of the tree (using a measuring tape or my counting your paces) and you will have the tree’s height.

This method words best on level ground, so try not to walk uphill or downhill as you walk away from the tree you are measuring. For a more detailed explanation of how this method works, or to adapt this method for hilly terrain, click HERE.

How big can trees get?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer, as each tree species has different growing patterns and life spans, and other factors like sunlight, soil, and neighboring trees can determine how big they get. Many of New Canaan’s most common trees, like oaks, maples, and pines, can grow to have circumferences of over 100″ and heights over 100′ if left to grow for long enough. To see the biggest trees in Connecticut, check out CT’s Notable Tree website, HERE.