Champion Trees around Princeton, New Jersey

New Jersey's Champion trees are the most massive known trees throughout the state.  The NJ DEP's Forest Service receives submissions, assigns a score  based on circumference, height and crown, and then designates a champion, one per species.  See the list of champs on their website.  Here are the ones around Princeton Battlefield Park and surrounding areas.  Stats and locations provided by the DEP's list.

Champion Norway Spruce tree, Princeton Battlefield Park, NJ
Norway Spruce (Picea abies)
14' 7'' circum., 83' height, 63' crown
Driving past Princeton Battlefield Park it's hard to miss this champ, the state's largest Norway Spruce.  Native to northern and eastern Europe they are invasive in the US, yet unproblematic anywhere south of USDA zone 6 (like here, zone 7) where invasions are minimal due to difficulties germinating in heat.

Champion Pecan tree, Princeton Battlefield Park, NJ
Pecan (Carya illoenensis)
10' 5'' circum., 95' height, 108' crown 
Native to the Mississippi Valley, from Iowa to Louisiana and down to Mexico, this pecan is beyond its natural range.  However, certain cultivars can survive New Jersey's winters, like this champ growing behind the Clarke House.

Champion Black Oak - Princeton NJ
Black Oak (Quercus velutina)
21' 6'' circum., 110' height, 146' crown 
This giant earns the "historic champion" designation, rare on the DEP list.  Probably close to 300 years old, local farmers in the 1700's noted this tree, according to an interpretive sign in the nearby Maidenhead Meadows Park.  In recent years it survived construction of the Bristol Meyers complex and expansion of Princeton Pike, retrofitted with its own fence, lightning rod and supports for its lower branches.

Champion Pawlonia, Empress Tree - Princeton NJ
Pawlonia (P. tomentosa)
17' 4'' circum., 59' height, 39' crown
Just down the road in Marquand Park is this Pawlonia, or Empress Tree.  Traditionally Chinese parents planted one of these for a newborn daughter, since they'd both mature around the same time.  Then upon marriage the family would cut it down to construct dowry gifts.  Nowadays in the US, land stewards cut them down because they're invasive.

Sprouting Sycamore, Princeton Battlefield Park, NJ
This sycamore seems a bit too stumpy to make the DEP's list.  But it's still a champion in my book.  It must've lived for around 200 years and been dead for several more... well, mostly dead.     

Living American Chestnut, Princeton Battlefield Park, NJ, behind Clarke House
Another tree noteworthy for its resilience is this American Chestnut.  Most of the species, an estimated 3 to 4 billion trees, were killed in the early 1900's by chestnut blight.  Aside from the doomed sprouts of dead trunks, finding these trees alive is rare.


  1. I am also one of the tree lovers and often go out to explore the mighty trees and various other types in the woods. Its great to see some amazing photos of the trees added to my collection.

  2. I was preparing a post about the tree for when your site popped up during a google search. Could you tell me where you saw a mature American chestnut? We're working to restore those in Princeton, at Herrontown Woods and elsewhere. You can contact me via the "about me" tab on my website.

    1. Hey Stephen, the tree pictured above is at Princeton Battlefield Park, just behind the Clarke house. Can't miss it.

      Great to hear about your work, thanks for sharing!