A tale of two trees
Rollinsford, Sugar Hill vie for largest cottonwood title
By NANCY BEAN FOSTER
Union Leader Correspondent | August 25. 2013 10:48PM
Rick Hunt of Sugar Hill stands next to the state's second-largest cottonwood tree. The largest cottonwood is in Rollinsford. (MICKEY DE RHAM)
Mickey de Rham, a Sugar Hill resident, said the state's second-largest cottonwood grows not far from her on the side of the road on Route 117.
The trunk of the Sugar Hill tree has a circumference of close to 22 feet, and the tree stands 117 feet tall with a crown spread of 85 feet. The tree in Rollinsford has a trunk that's 22.7 feet around. Though it's shorter than the Sugar Hill tree by five inches, its crown spread is 111 feet.
"We want to bring attention to these beautiful trees so that people realize they're out there," she said.
"There's a sort of friendly competition that happens over these trees, even among local coordinators," said Page.
Dave Falkenham, a forester with University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension in Grafton County, said that cottonwoods aren't common to New Hampshire and tend to be more of a Midwestern tree. The hardwoods grow in river bottoms and can get really, really big, he said.
When Dutch elm disease began wiping out the popular shade trees, cottonwoods were brought in to restore the tree-lined streets people desired. But cottonwoods aren't very kind to sidewalks and roads, Falkenham said, because their root systems are massive and rise up out of the pavement.
"They're a neat tree to look at, an impressive species," said Falkenham. "I wish we had more of them." It's impossible to know for sure if the trees on the Big Tree program's list are actually the largest in the state, said Page. Though program coordinators will go out and measure trees nominated online, it often is up to a homeowner to point out where the big trees are. New Hampshire currently has seven of the largest trees in the country, said Page, including a sweet birch in New Boston, a white pine in Keene, a pitch pine in Newbury, a black spruce in Jefferson, an American mountain ash in Stewartstown, a black locust in Walpole, and a staghorn sumac in Conway.