Big Tree Adventure in Manchester

Article and photos by Anne Krantz
Natural Resources Steward and Big Tree Coordinator for Hillsborough County

Big Tree Manchester Cottonwood with Kevin Martin and Mike Callaghan

Tree records for the NH Big Tree program go back to the 1960s when the NH program, sponsored by American Forests, was founded. This was long before computerized records and GPS systems for precise location data.  So our records include some very old trees with minimal documentation. 

Two old giants in Manchester did have location data, but when we attempted to re-measure them a few years ago, we discovered that they grow at the bottom of an inaccessible gully.  When we got our new laser measuring device a few years ago, these two cottonwood trees were at the top of the Hillsborough County list for this more accurate measuring system. Because of the jungle surrounding the trees, we couldn’t sight the top and bottom with our clinometers, our usual measuring tool.

Realizing that we needed to measure them before the leaves opened, we scheduled a measuring trip for May 9.  It couldn’t have been a more perfect day – cool and sunny with few bugs. The adventure began at the top of the steep, narrow steps at the rim of the gully. We made it down without falling. The floor of the gully is flat but loaded with Oriental bittersweet vines that ensnared our ankles, and with lots of burning bush and barberry bushes to slow us down.

But we had no trouble finding the huge tall trees that exploded up and over the top of the 50-foot gully sides.  It was worth the trip to see the incredible structure of the trees and marvel at the thick, deeply furrowed bark.

The laser solved the height measuring problem; Kevin Martin, the Rockingham County Big Tree Coordinator and national-trained big tree measurer, could sight both the top and bottom for an accurate measurement.  In both cases the trees were not as tall as the original measurers thought because it is hard to see the top of trees with wide crowns when using a clinometer.

We were surprised to find that the first tree -- with the magnificent straight trunk that soars 97 feet and is 142 inches in circumference with a huge wide canopy -- won the beauty prize, but not the big prize. The second tree is a “leaner,” with rot at the bottom of the trunk and big broken branches, but is bigger than the first, with a circumference of 152.5 inches and a height of 105 feet. Protected from hurricanes at the bottom of a surprising gully, hidden in the city of Manchester, it is the biggest cottonwood tree in Hillsborough County.

Full Cottonwood Tree in Manchester
Full Cottonwood Tree in Manchester. Photo by Anne Krantz.


Leaner Trunk Cottonwood Tree Manchester
"Leaner Trunk" Cottonwood Tree. Photo by Anne Krantz.


Big Cottonwood Manchester Top of Gully
Kevin Martin and Mike Callaghan at top of gully with Cottonwood Tree. Photo by Anne Krantz.


About the Author

Anne Krantz admits, “I literally stumbled into the fascinating the Natural Resources Stewards Program and followed that with the comprehensive Master Gardener training.”  Participating in a special training in 2009, Anne became part of the first team of volunteers to answer homeowner questions at the Education Center, an activity she continues to love.

“Because of these excellent education opportunities I now serve on my conservation commission, the NH Pesticide Board and the Rivers Management Advisory Council," she says. "I have also enjoyed UNH Extension's Big Tree program; I just found a flowering native chestnut tree this morning!”


Anne Krantz
NH Big Tree Program Volunteer & Natural Resources Steward

Mary Tebo Davis
Urban and Community Natural Resources Field Specialist
Full Extension Field Spec
Phone: (603) 641-6060
Office: Cooperative Extension, Taylor Hall, Durham, NH 03824