Big trees in the Vanderbilt Arboretum
What’s a big tree?
What does it mean to be a “big” tree? The National Register of Big Trees and Tennessee Champion Trees list use a point system based on three charactistics that make a tree “big”: the circumference in inches + the height in feet + 1/4 the average crown spread in feet.
The biggest trees
Based on this kind of “score”, the library’s willow oak (2-1030) has a slight edge in the contest for largest tree on campus. However, the margin of error in measurement is great enough that there is essentially a four-way tie.
- If you park in the Wesley Place garage and walk to main campus, you pass the winning willow oak between the central library and Benson Chapel. It is on your left as you ascend the steps up to Library Lawn. [Note in 2018: last year this tree lost one of it’s major branches in a big crash that destroyed the railing of the stairs below. It has not been re-measured, but the loss of this branch may have reduced its crown spread to the point where it is no longer tied for first place.]
- Not surprisingly, one of the four is the most famous tree on campus, the Bicentennial Oak, which is also possibly the only tree in the arboretum that predates the campus. The Bicentennial Oak has a massive girth and is actually wider than it is tall, with a single branch that stretches 21 meters (69 feet).
- Another is the only southern red oak on campus, which stands in front of Godchaux Hall. It is well known to those who walk from Peabody to Main Campus across the 21st Ave.S. bridge. It is one of the tallest trees on campus.
- The big sugarberry is in the Divinity School courtyard.
Seeing the big trees
A “Trail of Giants” tree tour is under construction. You can take the tour now, although the descriptive text for each tree isn’t finished.
About this list
The primary criterion for inclusion in this list is that the tree has a diameter of 1 meter (40 inches) or more. The list also includes individual trees that are the largest known examples of their species, regardless of their diameter. Those trees are listed on bold type. If the tree has a web page, it is linked to the tree’s ID code. To see the location of the tree, click on the “location” link. In cases where the tree is near a road, Google Street View can be used to view the tree.
The list below includes many of the largest trees on campus, and will be extended as more trees are measured. In particular, there are probably some large hackberries that need to be added. We are still collecting data on the height and crown spread and will update the list as we obtain that information. The list is ordered by points where available; otherwise the trees are listed in order of diameter.
A more extensive public database is at https://github.com/vanderbilt-arboretum.
If you interested in knowing how old the trees might be, see How old are trees in the Vanderbilt Arboretum?
|ID code||species||dia. (cm)||dia. (in.)||height (m)||height (ft.)||ave. crown spread (m)||ave. crown spread (ft.)||points*||location||notes|
|2-1030||Quercus phellos(willow oak)||135||53||31.7||104**||29.3||96||295||between the central library and Benson Chapel|
|2-691||Quercus macrocarpa(bur oak)||149||59||25||82||30||98||291||between Rand and Garland Halls||the Bicentennial Oak|
|2-244||Celtis laevigata(sugarberry)||146||57||28.5||94||21||69||291||Divinity School courtyard|
|2-123||Quercus falcata(southern red oak)||132||52||32||105||27.5||90||291||between Godchaux Hall and 21st Ave.S.|
|3-589||Ulmus americana(American elm)||125||49||31||102||30||98||281||by the Beta Omicron Pi house on 24th Ave.S.|
|9-379||Quercus phellos (willow oak)||154||61||23||75||18||59||281||between 1114 19th Ave.S. and Edgehill|
|2-795||Quercus phellos (willow oak)||117||46||32||105||26||85||271||near library loading dock and 21st Ave.S. crosswalk|
|2-1021||Quercus shumardii(Shumard oak)||128||50||27||89||28||92||270||south of Furman Hall|
|2-161||Quercus alba (white oak)||117||46||28||92||34.5||113||265||between Kirkland Hall and Curry Field|
|4-487||Magnolia grandiflora(southern magnolia)||134.5||53||25||82||17.8||58||263||in front of Buttrick Hall||second magnolia north of entry walk|
|4-855||Celtis laevigata(sugarberry)||123||48||29||95||17.5||57||262||west of Community Partnership House|
|1-683||Quercus rubra (red oak)||118||46||29.5||97||20.5||67||260||in front of Payne building on Peabody Esplanade|
|2-437||Quercus imbricaria(shingle oak)||114||45||30.2||99**||20||66||256||against the south side of the central library|
|2-253||Celtis laevigata(sugarberry)||126||50||22||72||27.8||91||251||between the Law School and Calhoun Hall|
|1-625||Quercus palustris (pin oak)||113||44||27.5||90||22.5||84||251||northeast part of Magnolia Lawn|
|2-638||Fraxinus americana(white ash)||111||44||28||92||24.5||80||249||west of Furman and north of Benson Halls|
|2-402||Liriodendron tulipifera(tulip tree)||118||46||26***||86||21||69||249||northwest corner of Furman Hall|
|N/A||Quercus rubra (red oak)||115.5||46||26||85||24||79||248||in front of the University School of Nashville||located on USN property but included for historical reasons|
|4-522||Celtis laevigata(sugarberry)||131||52||20||66||22.5||74||246||south of Community Partnership House|
|3-419||Quercus rubra (red oak)||106||42||28||92***||26||85||245||north end of Alumni Lawn|
|3-62||Populus deltoides(eastern cottonwood)||110||43||27||89||20||66||241||Kensington and 24th Ave.S.|
|3-327||Quercus shumardii(Shumard oak)||104||41||27||90***||25.5||84||239||south side of sidewalk in front of Cole Hall||Big Al’s twin|
|9-4||Tilia americana(American basswood)||124.5||49||21||69||19.3||63||239||in front of 1110 19th Ave.S.|
|1-730||Magnolia grandiflora(southern Magnolia)||122.5||48||22.5||74||15||49||238||center magnolia along Magnolia Circle on south side of Magnolia Lawn|
|2-209||Quercus nigra (water oak)||120||47||20.5||67||21.8||71||234||north of Benson Hall|
|3-52||Platanus occidentalis(American sycamore)||103||41||25||82||27.5||90||232||south of Cole Hall|
|4-702||Platanus occidentalis(American sycamore)||94||37||27||89||29||95||229||largest tree in Stevenson Courtyard|
|1-429||Magnolia grandiflora(southern Magnolia)||120||47||20||66||17.5||57||228||Magnolia Lawn east of Kennedy Center|
|2-411||Maclura pomifera(Osage orange)||124||49||17||56||20.8||68||226||east of Calhoun Hall|
|2-1036||Magnolia grandiflora(southern Magnolia)||114||45||21||69||18.5||61||225||east of Kirkland Hall; third tree north of curve in drive|
|2-319||Magnolia grandiflora(southern Magnolia)||118||46||20||66||16.5||54||225||between Rand and Old Central||has second 59 cm diameter stem|
|4-943||Magnolia grandiflora(southern Magnolia)||109||43||22||72***||19||62||223||in front of Buttrick Hall south of the entry walk|
|2-528||Ulmus serotina(September elm)||83||33||28.6||94**||20.5||67||218||between Benson and Garland Halls|
|2-247||Magnolia grandiflora(southern Magnolia)||110||43||18.5||61||18||58||211||in front of the central library veering north|
|2-182||Catalpa speciosa(northern catalpa)||111||44||18||60***||16||52||211||between Garland Hall and the Divinity School|
|2-663||Magnolia grandiflora(southern Magnolia)||109||43||18.5||61||16||52||209||northeast of Bishop McTyeire’s tomb||trunk splits just above measured height|
|2-1002||Magnolia grandiflora(southern Magnolia)||106||42||19||62||17||57||208||between Kissam dorms and Curry Field||Trunk splits into two at head height.|
|2-185||Ginkgo biloba (ginkgo)||100||39||18||59||23.5||77||202||between Kirkland and Barnard Halls||“Galloway’s ginkgo”|
|2-461||Magnolia grandiflora(southern Magnolia)||107||42||15||49||15||50||194||east of Kirkland Hall; second tree north of curve in drive|
|3-140||Quercus muhlenbergii(chinkapin oak)||97||38||14***||44||22.5||74||183||by the Station B post office entrance|
|2-584||Quercus velutina (black oak)||115||45||east of Rand and north of Bicentennial Oak||only black oak on campus|
|1-672||Quercus phellos (willow oak)||106||42||by entrance to Susan Gray playground on Magnolia Circle|
|1-298||Quercus rubra (red oak)||105||41||between the Susan Gray playground and 21st Ave.S.|
|2-780||Liriodendron tulipifera(tulip tree)||104||41||between Kirkland and Furman Halls|
|2-499||Quercus nigra (water oak)||101||40||west of Calhoun Hall|
|1-68||Quercus alba (white oak)||100.5||40||on the Peabody Esplanade by the library|
|4-891||Carya illinoinensis(pecan)||98||39||between McTyeire and the Round Wing|
|1-1278||Ulmus pumila (Siberian elm)||83||33||southwest of Peabody Administration Building||mistagged as Ulmus serotina|
|4-208||Sophora japonica(Chinese scholar tree)||75.5||30||20***||64||16||52||171||east of Buttrick Hall||former state champion|
|3-99||Fraxinus pennsylvanica(green ash)||74||29||between Phi Delta Theta and Zeta Beta Tau houses|
|4-616||Juglans nigra (black walnut)||72||28||18***||58||19||62||163||between McTyeire Hall and the Round Wing|
|2-791||Magnolia grandiflora(southern magnolia)||58||23||19||62||17.8||58||149||east of the drive near Kirkland Hall||Trunk splits three ways just below breast height; would be over 200 points if measured below the split.|
|2-845||Zelkova serrata(Japanese zelkova)||60||24||west of the Owen School||state champion tree, planted by Bishop McTyeire|
|4-474||Aesculus glabra (Ohio buckeye)||54.5||21||Between McTyeire Hall and the Round Wing||former state champion tree|
|1-81||Aesculus flava (yellow buckeye)||51||21||southwest of Peabody Administration Building|
|2-70||Magnolia virginiana(sweetbay)||34||13||against the south wall of Kirkland Hall, on the right||former state champion tree|
|1-375||Cornus florida(dogwood)||32||12||6.6||22||8.9||29||68||west side of Magnolia Lawn on north side of the sidewalk||This tree is probably over 100 years old.|
* Points are calculated according to the criteria used in the National Register of Big Trees: the circumference in inches + the height in feet + 1/4 the average crown spread in feet.
** Measured in feet by the Civil Engineering CE-161 class in April 2014.
*** Measured students from the Vanderbilt School for Science and Math. Measured value has asterisks.
Except as noted, English values are rounded conversions of the SI units. The diameter measurements should be quite accurate. The height and crown spread measurements are crude estimates and will hopefully be improved over time. Therefore, differences among trees of only a few points are probably not significant due to measurement error.