Unveiling the Majestic Giants: Discovering Illinois’ Largest Trees, Species by Species!

Illinois is home to a wide variety of trees, and thanks to this map from the University of Illinois Extension Office, you can quickly locate the largest of each of the species!

Dubbed “champion trees”, this map shows the location of the largest trees of each native species on record.

For example, two trees in Homer Glen were added to the champion tree list, as this article from the Will County Forest Preserve explains. A black maple and a jack pine in Messenger Woods measured larger than any other of their species on record!

When I start to think of champion tress, I automatically start to think of the “Champion of Tress”…the Morton Arboretum! Surely they are home to quite a few of the largest specimens of a lot of species of trees, right? Well, yes…but only three! I would have thought that number would be higher! The Morton Arboretum is home to the state’s largest yellow buckeye, Kansas hawthorn, and scarlet hawthorn.

I would also think a vast majority of trees that are the largest of their species would be down in the forests of southern Illinois. And, I’d be right! There are quite a few down there, but there were more than I expected in the suburbs!

Besides the two in Homer Glen, the largest American beech sits on private property a few blocks west of downtown! A few blocks west of that American beech sits the state’s largest American elm tree near the intersection of Downer Place and Calumet.

A yard in Geneva is home to the state’s largest black maple (well, co-champion).

The state’s biggest eastern black walnut lies hidden in Wildrose Springs Natural Area in St. Charles.

A home in Glen Ellyn is the proud owner of the state’s largest American elm.

If you and a friend tried to hold hands around the Ohio buckeye at the Hyatt Lodge in Oak Brook, you wouldn’t even be able to touch hands around its truck measuring 16 feet around.

So how do you determine a tree’s size? Is it diameter? Circumference? Height? Well…yes! The “biggest” tree of each native species is determined utilizing a point system devised by American Forests. Scoring, or total points, is based on the sum of three required tree measurements: circumference, height, and average crown spread.

If you think you have a champion tree in your own backyard, submit a nomination with this form.