Information provided by Aaron Greenberg at West Laurel Hill Cemetery, and former intern at Morris Arboretum.

Morris Arboretum’s Spring/Summer Seasons newsletter erroneously referred to our Katsura tree as a ‘former’ state champion in the article about Secret Spaces. In fact, it is very much an active state champion, which brought to mind: ‘what constitutes a state champion tree?’ Here is how it’s measured.

Each tree nominated to the PA Champion Tree Program is assigned a point value. The tree with the most points for each species is the Champion! The Big Three Program takes into account three measurements:

Circumference in INCHES: 1 point for every 1-inch trunk circumference +

Height in FEET: 1 point for every 1 foot of tree height +

Spread in FEET: 1 point for every 4 feet of canopy spread =


The first measurement is Circumference at Breast Height (CBH).

CBH in INCHES is 4.5' above the ground (this is the standard measure of "breast height" used by foresters nationwide)

If the tree has multiple stems (like Morris Arboretum’s Katsura), measure CBH of the LARGEST stem at 4.5', or above where the stems are conjoined

Each tree gets 1 BIG TREE POINT for every INCH of circumference.

The Katsura is 318" in circumference.

The Height of a tree is measured as the distance in FEET measured from the point where the tree emerges from the ground to the tallest living part of the tree.

Each tree receives 1 BIG TREE POINT for every FOOT OF HEIGHT

The Katsura is 64' tall.

Canopy Spread is a horizontal measurement, from leaf tip to leaf tip, of the extent of a tree’s canopy. This measurement is relatively easy to take with a long tape measure and a friend. One stands at one end of the canopy at the furthest end of a living branch, and the friend extends the measuring tape to the other furthers living branch in a straight line.

Because tree canopies are not perfect circles, it is important to get TWO measurements of Spread taken PERPENDICULAR to each other if possible. These two spreads are averaged, and that AVERAGE SPREAD is considered for estimating a point value. of the shortest spread, and the longest spread of the tree. Adding the two numbers together, and then dividing by two will give you the average crown spread.

Each tree gets 1 BIG TREE POINT for every 4 FEET of Average Canopy Spread. (Each FOOT of Average Canopy Spread adds ¼ POINT to the BIG TREE SCORE)

The Katsura has a 96' canopy spread.

Not only is Morris Arboretum's Katsura a state champion, it’s clearly a favorite with visitors. Its huge, spreading canopy and wide, exposed roots are awe-inspiring. The leaves provide a three-season show. They emerge a beautiful, light pink in spring before turning pale green. In summer, the leaves are blue-green and in fall, turn a yellow-apricot color. As the leaves fall and decompose, they give off an odor reminiscent of caramel or cotton candy.  The Katsura is a must-see attraction for any visitor!