Champion Trees in Oaky Woods

by Danny Hamsley and John Trussell

California is not the only place that has giant trees. This huge red oak has a hollow center big enough for forester Danny Hamsley to stand inside! It can be found along Big Grocery Creek in Oaky Woods WMA.
Oaky Woods Wildlife Management Area is full of large mature hardwood trees along the bottom land areas , and some of these trees are the oldest of their kind not only in Houston County, but the entire state of Georgia! According to Danny Hamsley, a forester with the Weyerhauser Corporation, most of the trees along Big Grocery Creek have not been cut in 80 years, with some dating 150 years or more,thus they are unique treasures to the region. However most of the trees in upland areas are pines, cut in routine rotation for pulp and saw timber for home construction and other uses. At least four trees of the trees along Big Grocery creek are champion trees, the largest and oldest of their kind and are documented in the State Champion Tree Registry:

  • Swamp Chestnut Oak (Quercus Michauxii)
  • Durand Oak (Quercus Durandii)( recently fell during storm, looking for replacement)
  • Carolina Hichory (Carya Ovata, var-Australis)
  • Buckhorn (Bumelia Lyciodes)
The master plan for the development of the Oaky Woods property includes a large man-made lake where these trees are located, which would mean certain destruction of not only the champion trees, but the remarkable forest in which they stand. Please help us save Oaky Woods and prevent the cutting of these trees!


The desire to save and document champion trees started many years ago:

"Let every tree lover, every forester, every lumberman rally…to fight for the preservation of our biggest tree specimens."
Joseph Stearns, Forester, 1940

Oaky woods has several old beech tree carvings dating from the early 1900's. This one shows a man holding a moonshine jug in one hand and a cigar in the other hand. The carving is next to a swimming hole along a creek and the remnants of an old moonshine still are close by. The word "bear" with carved bear claws is visable on the left side of tree. This carving was made in 1933 and has been verified by Harvey Rackley of Perry. (photo by John Trussell)
AMERICAN FORESTS' National Register of Big Trees is the result of this rallying cry. Since 1940, AMERICAN FORESTS has documented the largest known specimens of every native and naturalized tree in the United States. The largest tree of its species in the country is the National Champion.

National champion trees capture our imagination for their size and strength, however, there's more to a champion than just its size—they are symbols of all the good work trees do for the quality of the environment and our quality of life. Big trees provide more cooling shade and more places for wildlife to perch and nest. They sequester more carbon dioxide, trap more pollutants, and purify more water.

Although most trees can outlive us - 100 to 200 years is not unusual - they succumb to age, disease and insects, wind, rain, and drought. And now, all too often, to the chainsaw buzz of development. All trees work hard to improve our environment. It's our responsibility to maintain a healthy environment that allows trees to grow to champion status.

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