While researching the Oklahoma City Zoo’s botanical garden collection, we asked the Oklahoma Forestry Services to look at several of our landmark trees to help identify age and size for possible state champion tree status and conservation.
Oklahoma Forestry Services, in cooperation with the Oklahoma Forestry Association, maintains records on the largest specimens of many of Oklahoma's tree species. This list has been updated and published periodically since the early 1960's. Currently there are close to 100 champion and co-champion trees contained in the list.
The foresters came out in late October and took data on the diameter breast height (DBH), canopy width and overall tree height to determine if we have any champion trees on site. DBH is basically the circumference around the tree at four feet above ground.
We are pleased to report that the OKC Zoo is home to the Arizona Cypress state champion tree. It was planted in 1981 and resides in the center of the water conservation garden. This is truly something that sets the Zoo’s botanical garden apart from any other in the state.
The Zoo is also home to two runners up. Forestry officials also measured the lacebark elm in the Children’s Zoo and the bur oak in the Asian deer yard, both of which were close seconds to state champions.
The lacebark was planted in the late 1980s and the bur oak is a native tree that is around 150-200 years old so it was here before the zoo was. Trees this old are called witness trees because they pre-date statehood and have "witnessed" much of our history.
-Lance Swearingin, Horticultural Curator