The dawn redwood tree in Wilson Park is the largest of its kind in the state, standing at 24 feet tall.

Standing at 54 feet tall with low-hanging branches, the dawn redwood tree at Wilson Park is not only a climbing tree for children in Fayetteville, but also the largest of its kind in Arkansas, making it a state champion tree as of January.

In the 20 years of the tree’s life, it has grown to be the largest in the state and it will continue to grow larger for the course of its lifespan up to 80 feet, said John Scott, an urban forester for the city of Fayetteville.

“It was planted in 1999 and it's grown that much since then,” Scott said. “It's pretty amazing just how big it is in a little over 20 years.”

To determine if the Wilson Park dawn redwood tree is a champion tree, the Arkansas Forestry Commission measured its trunk circumference, height and average crown spread, which is how far the tree branches extend from the tree, according to the city of Fayetteville.

The dawn redwood is the second state champion tree in Wilson park after the Arkansas Forestry Commision recognized the park’s persimmon tree in October 2019, Melissa Evans, Fayetteville urban forester said.

“That's pretty special to have two state champion trees in such close proximity to each other,” Evans said.

The tree grew to be so large because Fayetteville urban foresters cared for the tree in the first three years of its life, which is the most vulnerable time for a tree, Scott said. Natural elements, including bad soil conditions and not enough water, can cause the most damage to a tree in the early years of its life.

The award-winning tree is in a prominent spot in Wilson Park located near the castle-themed playground.

“If you go out and look at it, you can see that kids are climbing on it,” Scott said. “You might have to wait a turn to climb in it yourself if you go out there.”

Fayetteville Parks and Recreation workers want to recognize the tree so it can be an educational tool on the benefits of trees, Scott said.

Fayetteville’s urban forest is important because it provides the community with health, shade and environmental benefits,Scott said.

The Parks and Recreation Grounds Maintenance crew will place a plaque by the tree and design it in the same style as the castle in the park, Scott said. The tree will have a ceremony at the park recognizing its award on April 18.

An Earth Day celebration on April 18 will serve as a ceremony for the award-winning tree, Scott said. Scott will host a tour of trees in Fayetteville and show off the dawn redwood.

Abby Zimmardi is the multimedia editor for the Arkansas Traveler, where she previously worked as a staff reporter.

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