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 is in the Bootheel.
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.
More information on Missouri’s State Champion Trees can be found at http://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/outdoor-recreation/missouri-state-champion-trees.
Columbia Bottom Conservation Area is located off Riverview Drive, approximately three miles north of I-270.