The search for Michigan’s tallest tree has found its victor: a staggering Eastern White Pine located in a remote area on the state’s beautiful Upper Peninsula. Discovered by Nick Hansen during a backpacking trip through the McCormick Wilderness this spring, the tree was clearly special from the moment he spotted it, even by the dim light of a headlamp after dark.
I’d seen a lot of big white pines — I’ve been to Hartwick Pines — and this thing just dwarfed anything I’d seen in actual, designated old growth areas,” Hansen told Michigan Live. “I was pretty mystified by that.”
When his trip was over, Hansen reported the tree to Michigan Botanical Club’s Big Tree Register program, who sent out expert Byron Sailor to take its official measurements. As it turns out, the amazing 155-foot-tall tree is not just the state’s tallest white pine, it’s the tallest tree currently on record in Michigan. The previous champion was an Eastern White Pine topping out at 143 feet tall. It isn’t just its towering height that’s impressive, either. The tree has a 63-foot crown spread and a circumference of more than 15 feet.
State coordinator Ted Reuschel says the tree’s location makes it even more special. “The vast majority of the big trees on the register are not out in the woods; they’re in cemeteries and parks and golf courses and places like that,” places where they’ve been protected, he explains.
To find some of the most majestic Eastern White Pine trees in North America, just head to the Peace Grove in Massachusetts’ Mohawk Trail State Forest. It’s home to no fewer than seven outstanding white pines, so notable they have names like Lee Frelich, Crazy Horse, William Moomaw, Chuck Bellows and Bruce Kershner. They stand in a cluster of about 45 Eastern White Pines with an average trunk volume of 307 cubic feet, with the tallest, Jake Swamp, stretching 176 feet into the air.
YouTuber Dime Store Adventures took a visit to Peace Grove to see the trees in person, and if you live anywhere nearby, you should get out there and check it out yourself. As you can see, it’s worth the hike.
“The Peace Grove is a stand of massive Eastern White Pines out in the woods,” says the host. “It contains 24 trees over 150 feet tall which is insanely rare. There’s pretty much nowhere left on the planet with this density of massive white pines. In fact, some of them even have names, like the Jake Swamp Pine named for the famous Mohawk Native American Chief Saheda, named for a Mohawk elder who was killed over a disagreement involving the beaver pelts trade.”
“In fact, this whole area’s name stems from Native American culture. The grove was named and dedicated in 1997 as the Peace Grove in reference to the fact that in many different Native American traditions the Eastern White Pine is known as the Tree of Peace. Some say that the famous Five Nations were convinced to come together and quite fighting under the symbolism of the five needles clustered on an Eastern White Pine, representing each one of the tribes, and the Iroquois have along history with the tree. It was common practice to bury weapons of war at the base of an Eastern White Pine to recognize the induction of a peace agreement.”
He also has some tips for identifying an Eastern White Pine tree in the wild. “If you get close you’d see some nice long feathery needles and clusters of five. You can use that fact to help you identify the tree. The word ‘white’ has five letters in it, and the Eastern White Pine needles grow in clusters of five.”
The towering Eastern White Pines of Maine, stretching up to two hundred feet into the sky, were an incredible sight for Europeans arriving for the first time in what would later become New England. Maine is now known as the Pine Tree State, and has taken the Eastern White Pine as its state tree (and even the White Pine Cone and Tassel as its flower, even though it’s not technically a flower.) This tree has played a major role in Maine history, from the very first days of colonization to the modern era.
Those tall trees were in such great demand, they played a role in sparking the Revolutionary War. Their trunks were ideal for use as masts in large seafaring vessels, and while Colonists depended on them to build their own ships and architecture, Great Britain began to claim the largest and strongest for its own ships. The conflict led to an incident known as ‘The Pine Tree Riot,’ one of the first real acts of rebellion against British rule.
Before it was settled, Maine was covered in forests, but colonists quickly began clearing large tracts of land for homes and farms, and to use the wood. The first sawmills of Maine were reportedly established in the early 1630s, and the lumber industry was in full swing by mid-century. By 1682, there were 24 sawmills operating in what is now Kittery, Wells and Portland.
By the 19th century, Bangor was the lumber capital of the world, home to over 300 sawmills. The Penobscot River played a large role in the industry, allowing loggers to send large logs from the northern Maine woods to Bangor, where they were processed. Today, the North Woods are a beautiful 10.4-million-acre undeveloped forest offering recreational opportunities for Mainers as well as visitors from all over the world.
It may seem, with all of this logging in the state’s history, that Maine would be in danger of exhausting its supply of trees. Yet today, almost 89% of the state is forested. In fact, it’s the most forested state in the nation. Timber continues to be a large part of the state’s economy, and Maine has been on the forefront of sustainable forestry.