In this neck of the woods, it may be correctly assumed that “the big tree”— as the magnificent, 350- to 400-year-old bur oak growing in a field near McBaine is commonly known — is the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) State Champion Quercus macrocarpa. Located on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, the stately sentinel was arguably historic even before those prominent early explorers passed within sight of it.

At one time, Mizzou Botanic Garden (MUBG) claimed six of MDC’s tree champions, but records are not static. Things change — and grow. Interim program manager, MDC Kansas City Urban Forester Chuck Conner, said the program has revamped its criteria. Only native trees are now considered, and shrubs, like MUBG’s buttonbush champ, no longer qualify.

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  • Jan Wiese-Fales writes about the Mizzou Botanic Garden. Her columns appear twice monthly in the Missourian.

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