A deceptively simple formula exists to measure a tree's size. Three aspects of a given tree are considered: (1) The circumference of the trunk; (2) the tree's height; and (3) the spread of the tree's branches. Once these three figures are obtained, a tree is given one point for each inch of circumference, one point for each foot of height, and one point for every four feet of spread.
Thus a tree that is 150 inches in circumference, 100 feet in height, and 80 feet in spread would have a point total of 150 + 100 + 20 = 270. This number can then be compared to the point total of other trees to determine which specimen is largest. [Two trees can be co-champions, as deter- mined by the 3x3 Rule. For an explanation, see entry for the co-champion ginkgo in Lancaster Cemetery.]
While simple in structure, the above formula can be difficult to apply. Spread is fairly easy for an untrained individual to determine, but height is less easy to pin down and trunk circumference is not always easy to define....in particular, in terms of where along the trunk to measure and how to deal with a multi-trunked tree.
Multi-trunked trees are especially a problem. A single tree can, early in its life, branch off into two or more trunks. Alternatively, two or more trees of the same species can sprout next to each other (as when a seed pod falls in its entirety to the ground) and then fuse over time, giving the appearance of a single tree when in fact beginning life as several individuals. If you're focused on whether a tree is a champion (e.g., the largest of its kind within a given state), then obviously you don't want to compare a single trunked tree to one in which several individuals have joined together. That just wouldn't be fair.
Such matters are not of prime concern to us here. Sure, it's interesting and important to know that the Burr Oak in Millersville has been determined to be the largest Burr Oak in Pennsylvania. But what about the Boxelder Maple in Manor Township Community Park whose multiple trunks start spreading basically at ground-level? Even though it may not fit the standards of a "big tree" list, any passerby will tell you that however it began life and however many trunks it has, it's a single tree today and an especially large one at that.
Point being, even when our focus is on size (as opposed to form, beauty, etc.), multi-trunked trees are as welcome here as any other special tree in Lancaster County.
For detailed, technical information on measuring trees, see guidelines of the Eastern Native Tree Society at or consult the American Forests Measuring Guidelines Handbook at