These 28 Johnson County trees have been dubbed ‘Champions’

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Kansas is known primarily as a land of rolling plains and waving fields of wheat. But it also has trees, and some big ones at that.

For decades, the Kansas Forest Service has maintained a list of “Champion” trees, the largest trees of their species in the state.

The list is maintained and updated thanks to the nominations of volunteers, who spot and measure the trees.

The forest service’s 2023 report totals 140 champion trees statewide, including 28 in Johnson County.

The trees are spread across Johnson County

  • Olathe is home to seven trees on this year’s list, the most of any one city in Johnson County.
  • The biggest reported tree is in Prairie Village, a 99-foot-tall swamp white oak. (The state’s report does not give the exact locations of the trees, only the owners, some of whom are private homeowners.)
  • Both Prairie Village and Overland Park have six Champion Trees on this most recent list, including an 80-foot shingle oak at Family Tree Nursery.
  • There are three trees identified in Leawood, two in Mission Hills (including a 90-foot Siberian elm on the grounds of Kansas City Country Club), two in Shawnee and one each in Stilwell and Westwood.

Champion trees measured in three ways

  • Each tree is given a point score based on three factors: circumference, height and crown spread — or the distance from one end of the branches to the other.
  • A tree’s circumference — measured on the trunk, four-and-a-half feet above the ground — is the most important factor, according to the forest service, followed by height and crown spread.
  • Trees are measured against their own species and can be co-champions if they score within five points of each other, according to the report.
Champion Tree Johnson County
The largest shingle oak tree in Kansas is at Family Tree Nursery in Overland Park. Photo credit Juliana Garcia.

The volunteer-run program aims to preserve, honor trees

  • Champion Trees also increase “awareness of a variety of tree species” and develop an “interest in the natural world,” according to a program brochure.
  • The program also relies on volunteers to measure, photograph and nominate large trees.
  • Nominations can be completed online here.

Go deeper: A full list of Kansas Champion Trees 2023 can be found here.

About the author

Juliana Garcia
Juliana Garcia

👋 Hi! I’m Juliana Garcia, and I cover Prairie Village and northeast Johnson County for the Johnson County Post.

I grew up in Roeland Park and graduated from Shawnee Mission North before going on to the University of Kansas, where I wrote for the University Daily Kansan and earned my bachelor’s degree in  journalism. Prior to joining the Post in 2019, I worked as an intern at the Kansas City Business Journal.