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Ryan Pankau/Illinois Extension

Tree owners Bob and Kasi Mitchell are pictured here along with their grandson in front of the State Champion swamp white oak, which was crowned in 2020 and is located in Vermilion County.

Illinois Extension is a resource available for all community members. We work hard to help residents find answers to burning questions, and solutions to challenges, and keep current on industry and university research. We provide education and outreach through a variety of outlets — this article is one of those methods. Another service provided by the Extension is the answering of individual calls or emails from community members. The type of questions we receive are as varied and unique as the trees in a forest. Some people call to inquire about pest and disease management. Others need assistance identifying a mysterious plant or planting recommendations. Occasionally, we get a call that is whimsical.

I received one of these calls the other day, which was a delight. The resident inquired where to find the largest cottonwood tree in the county. Unfortunately, not all questions have an easy answer, and as fun as this question was, it was also challenging. Champion tree records are not kept at the county level, so I was worried I would not be able to fully assist this caller.