New champion trees make state's list

Eight new species of trees joined the Louisiana Champion Tree list in 2021, five of which are in the Northwest corner of the state.

Breaking down the list of newcomers, four of them are located in Bossier Parish and two of the trees unseated previous champions — a Nutmeg Hickory in Bossier Parish and a Green Ash in St. Landry Parish.

After marveling at the size of the Sweetgum at the home of his wife’s aunt and uncle, James Hartsell of Shreveport finally contacted the Louisiana Forestry Association about whether the towering tree was big enough to make the list.

Click here to see the list of La. Champion Trees!

“Years ago when I married my wife, Stephanie, I noted how big the Sweetgum tree was,” Hartsell said. “Then (recently) I started wondering just how big is the state’s biggest Sweetgum.”

Although it took 20 years (the Hartsells have been married for 21 years), now he knows it’s large enough to make the Louisiana Champion Tree list as a co-champion in 2021.

“We’re in the process now of buying the land and home,” he said.

Stephanie’s relative, Gale and Doris Robinson had purchased the home in the early 1970s and according to James, family members said the tree was large back then.

“So, we really don’t know how old the tree is,” James Hartsell said.

The other four trees discovered in Northwest Louisiana are all in Bossier Parish and all of them were reported by amateur botanist John Michael Kelley (see feature on Kelley on page 4).

Kelley, whose efforts recorded a few new Champion Trees last year, found three new co-champs — American Holly, Black Hickory and Eastern Hophornbeam — and the Nutmeg Hickory that sits alone