Missouri State Champion Tree, Second Largest In State, Destroyed By Tornadoes (PHOTOS)

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Destroyed champion tree at Columbia Bottom. - MISSOURI DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION
  • Missouri Department of Conservation
  • Destroyed champion tree at Columbia Bottom.

The destructive tornadoes last Friday damaged more than just homes in St. Louis and St. Charles counties.

The Missouri Department of Conservation is now reporting that the storm caused the Missouri State Champion eastern cottonwood tree in St. Louis to topple over -- ruining the second largest tree on record in the state.

"It looked like it had been twisted off its base," says Colleen Scott, interpretive center supervisor at Columbia Bottom Conservation Area, in a statement. "A four-to-five foot high portion of the trunk is still standing, but the rest was snapped off."

Check out more photos of the damage below.

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The conservation department notes that the storm, which featured nine tornadoes locally, damaged hundreds of homes, leaving some destroyed, and left nearly 100,000 residents without power. But it also "robbed the St. Louis area of a state record."

Toppled tree. - MISSOURI DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION
  • Missouri Department of Conservation
  • Toppled tree.

The award-winning tree apparently fell victim to the extremely strong winds on Friday night at the conservation area in Spanish Lake, which is located off of Riverview Drive about three miles north of I-270.

That area was flooded when the swelling of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers topped its levees on Sunday, the department says, leaving only the visitors' center dry.

Of the champion tree, the department says:

The tree had a circumference of 310 inches, height of 127 feet, and 103 foot spread. It was designated State Championship eastern cottonwood in May of 2012. The Columbia Bottom giant was also second largest of any tree on record in the state of Missouri. The largest Missouri tree currently recorded is a slightly larger baldcypress in the Bootheel, with a circumference of 320 inches, height of 128 feet and a 73 foot spread.

With this tree down, the state championship now passes on to an eastern cottonwood located on private property in Platte County.

Columbia Bottom State Champion tree before it was destroyed. - MISSOURI DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION
  • Missouri Department of Conservation
  • Columbia Bottom State Champion tree before it was destroyed.

A tree is awarded the "Missouri Champion" title based on a point-value formula that considers height, crown spread and trunk size.

Continue for more photos of tornado damage and the full announcement from the conservation department about the champion tree.

Here some more local storm damage photos all courtesy of National Weather Service:

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Continue for more photos.

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Here's the full conservation department announcement about the destroyed tree.

Giant St. Louis area State Champion tree toppled by violent May 31st storm

St. Louis County--The ferocious storm that rocked St. Charles and St. Louis Counties the evening of Friday, May 31--generating nine tornadoes according to the National Weather Service, leaving hundreds of homes damaged and some destroyed, and stranding nearly 100,000 residents without power--also robbed the St. Louis area of a state record.

The Missouri State Champion eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoids) was toppled Friday night, May 31, apparently the casualty of extremely strong winds, says the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC). The tree was located on Columbia Bottom Conservation Area in Spanish Lake.

The conservation area was flooded when the swelling Missouri and Mississippi Rivers topped its levees on Sunday, June 2, leaving only the visitor center dry. The champion tree had fallen prior to the flooding however.

According to Colleen Scott, Interpretive Center Supervisor at Columbia Bottom, the downed tree was discovered Saturday morning. "It looked like it had been twisted off its base," reported Scott. "A four-to-five foot high portion of the trunk is still standing, but the rest was snapped off." Scott added that there was no charred wood or other evidence of a lightning strike.

The tree had a circumference of 310 inches, height of 127 feet, and 103 foot spread. It was designated State Championship eastern cottonwood in May of 2012. The Columbia Bottom giant was also second largest of any tree on record in the state of Missouri. The largest Missouri tree currently recorded is a slightly larger baldcypress in the Bootheel, with a circumference of 320 inches, height of 128 feet and a 73 foot spread.

With the Columbia Bottom tree gone, the State Championship will now be passed on to an eastern cottonwood located on private property in Platte County.

Determining Missouri's Champion Trees is based on a formula which gives the tree a point value. Points are determined by a tree's height, crown spread and trunk size. The formula adds the circumference in inches (measured at a point 4.5 feet above the ground) to the height in feet to one-fourth of the average crown spread. The cottonwood at Columbia Bottom earned a score of 463, trailing the above-mentioned baldypress by a mere three points.

More information on Missouri's State Champion Trees can be found at http://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/outdoor-recreation/missouri-state-champion-trees.

Eastern cottonwoods are among North America's largest hardwood trees, often found growing near rivers. They typically live 70 to 100 years, but have the potential to survive four centuries in ideal growing conditions. Cottonwoods are often known for the seedpods they produce in early summer, which split open to release multitudes of small seeds on cotton-like strands.

Columbia Bottom Conservation Area is located off Riverview Drive, approximately three miles north of I-270.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin.

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