Saturday, December 14, 2013

Our Georgia Champion Tree

The York House Inn original cabin structure was built in the mid 1840’s. We have a photo of the original structure in the 1880’s period, many years prior to the additions comprising the Inn as it appears today. In our photo the Chestnut log structure was two stories making up a two room downstairs and two room upstairs cabin. In this photo two young girls are standing on the front walk of the cabin flanked by two trees. These trees are approximately 24 feet high at that time, they are Norway Spruce (Picea abies). 
Photo York House 1880's with trees
Same Norway Spruce 2013

This spruce is non- native to Georgia and was most likely planted as a sapling. Norway spruce is native to the European Alps, the Balkan mountains, and the Carpathians, its range extending north to Scandinavia and merging with Siberian spruce (Picea obovata) in northern Russia.  It was introduced to the British Isles as early as 1500 AD, and is widely planted in North America, particularly in the northeastern United States, southeastern Canada, the Pacific Coast states, and the Rocky Mountain states.  Naturalized populations are known from Connecticut to Michigan and probably occur elsewhere. Norway spruce is an introduced evergreen tree.  In central Europe, heights of up to 203 feet (61 m) have been reported; the range is usually between 100 and 200 feet (30-61 m). Early growth of Norway spruce is slow, increasing to maximal rates from 20 to 60 years of age.  Within its native range, Norway spruce remains healthy up to 200 years, and lives up to 300 to 400 years at the northern limits of its range.  Senescence occurs at less than 200 years of age in the British Isles and North America (1).

The Norway Spruce can grow 2-3+ feet per year their first 25 years under good conditions, in heavy or poor soils they may average 1 foot per year. Soil, moisture, and adequate sunshine is everything to a plant and its growth rate. On a perfect weather year, and no competition from grass or weeds, we have seen over 6 Ft. of growth in one year!

The Norway Spruce is the most widespread, fastest growing, largest and most disease resistant spruce in the northern hemisphere. It is used extensively for windbreaks throughout Canada and the United States. It can tolerate much winds and still grow well. Every year at Christmas time, a Norway Spruce tree is placed in the Rockefeller center in New York City.  They look for the largest, most beautiful tree they can find.  Year after year there favorite is the Norway Spruce (2). This year’s tree is 76 feet tall.
Trees at Front of York House Inn 

With our trees, and the apparent size it appears that they were more than likely planted at some point immediately after the Civil War. Our trees are periodically assessed and measured by the Georgia Forestry Commission, since they were added to the Georgia Champion Tree registry in 1998. As of that time, they were the larges trees specimen of its kind in the State of Georgia.
View of trees from Rear of Inn
Look at the size of our Norway Spruce trees!

Our most recent look at the trees was in July 2010. At that time they were rated in excellent physical health with the following measurements:
Circumference at 4.5 feet (121 inches)
Total Vertical Height: 110 feet
Average Diameter of Crown Spread: 34 feet
Total Score: 240- (circumference + height+ crown/4 (roundup)
Keep in mind that the largest in the United States is in Durham, New Hampshire and is over 15 feet in circumference and 108 feet tall, so we have a ways to go. Remember what’s important not the height but the girth!
Designation of trees

We have recently asked for a re-assessment for our trees, so that we can keep them healthy for upcoming generations to appreciate. Our trees when last measured were still at the lower range of mature height, and given the possibility of healthy trees at 200 years of age (remember in native environments they can live 300-400 years). We hope that when 2065 or so rolls around our children can still appreciate these magnificent trees, may they long provide shade to the York House Inn.

1. Sullivan, Janet. 1994. Picea abies. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online].
U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: [2013, December 13].

2. Norway