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Tree hunter Adam Kraft of Spring Arbor stands in front of the Jackson County Big Tree Hunt winning silver maple in Ella Sharp Park. Photo courtesy Adam Kraft.

(December 7, 2022 5:22 PM) Adam Kraft of Spring Arbor won the prize for the largest tree entered from Jackson County in ReLeaf Michigan’s Big Tree Hunt.  The tree he found is a silver maple located in Ella Sharp Park and is 274-inches in circumference.  Adam also found the biggest trees in Hillsdale and Calhoun Counties and four potential state champions.  Award recipients celebrated the conclusion of its 15th biennial Michigan Big Tree Hunt contest recently with an awards ceremony at the Chippewa Nature Center in Midland. The contest, which awards participants for identifying the biggest trees in Michigan, began in the spring of 2020 and ran through the summer of 2022.

Kraft describes himself as a big tree hunter and told JTV News that trees are near and dear to his heart and have been since he could walk.

“I have loved this Silver Maple since I was a kid so naturally when I got into big tree hunting this tree was a must do,” said Kraft.  “ I entered 2 years ago when this current hunt started. This year I joined the team of folks who certify trees for the state Big Tree Program thus I went back out there and measured all aspects.”   Kraft measured the circumference of the award winning silver maple at 274″ or 7′ 3″ in diameter. 114.4′ is the average crown spread and the tree stands nearly 90′ tall.

Kraft is a professional photographer and has honed his style of perspective photography to show the trees’ true size.

“It is simple really, set the camera as close to the ground as possible and set the timer, get to the tree and stand in the middle with your back flush to the tree, said Kraft.  “This brings the viewer right into the  picture and shows the true mass.”

More than 650 entries were sent in from people across the state, including 79 of Michigan’s 83 counties. The winning entry for each county was verified on-site by professional arborists and foresters from throughout the state.  

Certificates and prizes were awarded for several categories: the largest tree submitted from each county, the overall largest tree in different age groups, the largest Eastern White Pine (Michigan’s state tree), and any new potential state champion trees.

The grand prize for the largest tree in the contest submitted by a Big Tree Hunter under 15 years old went to Aidan Presnell.  With help from his sister, Aidan found an Eastern cottonwood located in Washtenaw County, measuring 308 inches around (more than 25 feet). The grand prize for the largest tree submitted from a Big Tree Hunter 16 or older was awarded to both Mike Antoszewski and Paul Funk. Each of them entered an Eastern cottonwood in Monroe County measuring 301 inches around. The grand prize for the largest Eastern White Pine was another two-way tie, with two submissions both measuring approximately 181 inches. One was submitted by Tom Hollis and his granddaughter Payton Rue, located in Clinton County. The other was submitted by Nicholas Hansen, located in Marquette County.

Eighteen trees submitted for the contest qualified as new potential state champion trees and were submitted for further review and confirmation to the State Coordinator of the Michigan Big Tree Program, Ted Reuschel. Trees already listed in the Michigan Big Tree Register before the start of the contest were not eligible for prizes.  A complete list of winners is available on www.BigTreeHunt.com.  

The contest also helps discover eligible trees for the National Register of Big Trees, updated every spring and fall by American Forests. As recently as 2012, Michigan had 23 registered champion trees, but today only five are registered. The Big Tree Hunt is an opportunity to add to this list and get Michigan trees noticed nationwide.

 Adam Kraft chronicles his big tree discoveries on his Facebook page here, and also runs the Big Trees Michigan group here.

Kraft says 95% of the big trees on his page are ones he found on his own and that “Jackson is full of amazing super old and large trees.”

 Kraft adds, “I love trees and I am super happy this Maple has finally got its recognition!

The 2020-2022 Michigan Big Tree Hunt was made possible thanks to the support of its sponsors. The premier sponsor of the Big Tree Hunt was Nissan North America, who provided critical funding that allowed the ReLeaf Michigan team to devote resources to executing the Big Tree Hunt. Other sponsors included Consumers Energy, the Michigan DNR, ISA Michigan, the Michigan Botanical Club, the Michigan Botanical Foundation, and the Michigan State University Department of Forestry.

Since 1993, ReLeaf Michigan, a state-wide nonprofit tree organization, has challenged the public to find Michigan’s largest living trees through its Big Tree Hunt contest.  The contest encourages the public to observe Michigan trees while enjoying the outdoors.

Additional photos of the winning silver maple, courtesy Adam Kraft:

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