Photographs of Large Trees

In 1914, two members of the American Genetic Association offered prizes, two of them, of a hundred dollars each, for photographs of “large, wild, native trees in the United States”.  The contest was announced in volume five, number ten, of the Journal of Heredity (October 1914).

One prize was for the largest nut bearing tree, and the other for “the largest shade or forest tree, not nut-bearing.”  Photographs of conifers would “not be considered”.

They also requested that data be gathered on the tree, and sent along with the submission:

“The measurement of the tree must be given in detail. In making it the only method which may be followed is to take the circumference of the trunk at five feet from the ground.  The trunk must not be measured at a point where its girth is increased by the juncture of a branch; if it is so swelled at a point five feet from the ground, the measurement should be made at the smallest diameter above the basal swell and below the swell of the branches. In such a case the fact should be stated when the photograph is sent, and the exact point at which the measurement is made should be indicated. It is desirable that the full height of the tree and spread of branches, as well as the girth, should be stated; if they cannot be measured exactly, they should be estimated.”

Additionally, “Photographs should, when possible, contain some object, such as a human figure, or a horse and buggy, which will aid in giving a realization of the size of the tree…”

Further information was requested:

“With each photograph, a statement should be submitted telling all that is known about the tree, with reference to its age, its fertility, the quality of the nuts (if it bears nuts); the character of the soil and surrounding vegetation. It is particularly necessary that photographers should state whether there are many other very large trees of the same species in the neighborhood—within a radius, say, of five miles. If the tree is on private land, and likely to be destroyed, the fact should be mentioned. If there are any historical or literary associations connected with it, these should also be mentioned. It will be helpful if photographers can tell to what extent the tree is subject to attacks by disease or insects.”

They received a few hundred responses and published the results in 1916, in volume six, number nine, of the Journal of Heredity, which can be read here.

To see a photograph of a “Sycamore near Worthington, Ind., the largest broad-leaved tree in the U.S. Five feet above the ground it is 42 ft. 3 in. in circ.; the east branch is 27 ft. 3 in. in circ. and the west branch is 23 ft. 2 in. in circ.”, see here: Trees of Indiana, by Chas. C. Deam (1921); there is also, on p. 297, a “”Table of measurements of the largest trees of some species that occur in Indiana”.