NASF Photo Fellow: Challenger Trees, 4-H and Florida Tree Farms

By Leslie Robertson
NASF Photo Fellow

This afternoon we headed over to Scenic Hills Country Club to see a "challenger tree" for the Florida Champion Tree Register, which records the largest tree of each species in Florida. Many of these trees are also national champions in the National Register of Big Trees, published every two years. (Florida has the most national champions of any state in the country!)

The swamp chestnut oak that we saw was truly massive and towered over the golf course, making the golf carts driving by look tiny. Cathy Hardin, county forester, worked with forest ranger Nick Seanor to measure the circumference, height and crown spread of the tree. We later found out that it is the fifth largest swamp chestnut oak in the state.

Next, we traveled to a 4-H property, where we met up with Libbie Johnson, agriculture agent for the University of Florida. The private land holding is in the process of being converted into a center for 4-H events.

We had to use our imagination a bit to picture what the land is going to be turned into, aided by labeled signs designating “bird watching” areas, “ponds”, and more. Libbie was hilarious, joking with Adam Parden, forest area supervisor, who she works closely with on the property.

However, it was easy to see how much she cared about the project. The land will feature natural resources programs, astronomy opportunities, livestock shows, and more. While on the property we saw some quail, and Libbie showed me a peanut plant, which I had never seen before! 

Our last stop of the day was a field visit with a private, non-industrial landowner, Marty Lorenz. As county forester, Cathy works with private forest landowners like Marty to put sustainable management practices in place.

They met and reviewed a map of the property as well as a forest management plan before walking through a portion of the property so I could chat with them and take some pictures. Marty was very sweet and concerned about my lack of adaptation to the heat; he ended our visit by saying, “Get this one inside. She’s melting!"

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