Sizing up a tree

Foresters aren't the only ones who can "size up" a tree. Here's how you can do it, too.

images of measuring a tree

Around the Middle

Measure, to the nearest inch, the distance around the tree, about 4.5 feet up from the ground, to get the circumference. A flexible tape measure is a good tool to use.

How High

image showing measuring height of treeTake a 12-inch ruler and mark the 1-inch and 10-inch lines on the ruler with tape. Work in pairs. One person stands at the base of the tree. The other holds the ruler up in front of his or her own eyes at arm length and moves back until he or she can see the whole tree from top to bottom between the 0-inch and the 10-inch mark on the ruler. He or she then moves the ruler until the base of the tree is exactly at 0 inches and the top of the tree is sighted exactly at 10 inches. Then he or she sights out from the 1-inch mark to a point on the trunk above the base. The partner marks this spot on the trunk with tape.

Measure the distance from the base of the tree to the 1-inch mark. Multiply by 10 to get an approximate idea of the height of the tree.

images showing measuring crown

Crown Size

Set a stake directly under the outside edge of the crown farthest from the trunk (A) and another directly opposite it at the outer edge of the crown (B) on a line passing through the center of the tree. Next, set stakes marking the shortest diameter of the crown passing through the center of the tree (C and D). Measure both distances to the nearest foot with a tape measure. Add the two measurements together and divide the sum by two to find the average crown spread.

Fun Fact!

The largest living thing in the United States is the General Sherman Tree, a giant sequoia in Sequoia National Park in California. It towers more than 272 feet tall and has a trunk about 36 feet wide. That means it's as tall as a 20-story building and its trunk is as wide as a semitrailer is long. It's probably almost 3,000 years old.

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