It’s wider than basketball players are tall — it’s the biggest tree in DC

Casey Trees declared the Chestnut Oak in Battery Kemble Park as the biggest tree in D.C. (WTOP/Luke Lukert)
Its trunk is wider than Shaquille O’Neal is tall and has a circumference more than 24 feet. (WTOP/Luke Lukert)
The tree looks like it’s multiple trees grouped together, but they all stem from the same base. (WTOP/Luke Lukert)

You might think it’s in your backyard or around the corner, but a D.C.-based nonprofit has declared the largest tree in the city after a sweeping contest where residents submitted their picks.

Its trunk is wider than Shaquille O’Neal is tall — over 7 and 1/2 feet wide (Shaq is 7 feet 1 inch). Located at the edge of the Battery Kemble Park, the Chestnut Oak, which measures over 24 feet around its circumference, is the largest tree in the District.

When you drive by on Chain Bridge Road, you might think it is actually six or seven different oaks because of its split trunk, but as you get closer it is clear how large it is.

“It was on our radar from the beginning because it was a champion tree that was found for D.C. — a champion tree, meaning that it’s the largest of its species for a state or city in this case,” said Vince Drader with Casey Trees, the group that ran the contest.

Drader told WTOP that it is also a National Champion tree, meaning it is also the largest Chestnut Oak in the U.S. It was nominated in 2012. At that time, it reached 105 feet tall and its canopy spread 104 feet.

Almost all the District’s six largest trees, except for one Willow Oak at the National Arboretum, are in Northwest.

“It’s just we have a lot more green space that’s protected in Northwest, like Rock Creek Park areas, places like that. So a lot of federal land that’s been set aside for a long time where trees are able to grow big,” Drader said.

Some of the other top trees are Willow Oaks in Rock Creek Park and on Northampton Road.

“Willow Oaks are planted all around D.C. Also they grow quite fast in their first 50 to 100 years of life,” Drader said.

Numerous residents submitted their picks for the largest trees — some thought the one in the backyard or around the block might be the biggest.

“Just the reaction we got from the community, about their large trees and trees they loved, was great,” Drader said.

Casey Trees will keep their submission form online, Drader said, just in case someone finds a tree that might be able to dethrone the Chestnut Oak at Battery Kemble Park.

Luke Lukert

Since joining WTOP Luke Lukert has held just about every job in the newsroom from producer to web writer and now he works as a full-time reporter. He is an avid fan of UGA football. Go Dawgs!

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