SC Forestry Commission employee Wesley Bouknight stands next to the tree he and fellow Piedmont FIA Forester Steven Broom found while surveying a plot in Oconee County in March.

What a find…

Piedmont Forest Inventory & Analysis (FIA) Foresters Wesley Bouknight and Steven Broom stumbled upon history Friday, March 24 when they identified a large tree that has for centuries been mistaken for a mountain. It turns out it wasn’t just a big tree, but rather the most massive tree ever discovered.

Guinness Book of World Records officials confirmed the find a week later, identifying the mammoth tree as Quercus gargantua, a species of oak previously believed to be extinct since the 14th century. The tree breaks every dimensional record, boasting a diameter of more than a quarter-mile, a height of 814 feet and a crown spread of 1,345 feet.

“We always like to come up to this spot to eat lunch when we’re up in Oconee County, and we had just sat down at the base of Mount Cassellray when we noticed some tent caterpillars crawling on the rock we were leaning against,” said Wesley. “We were scratching our heads because you only usually see them on oak trees. But then, Steven said, ‘Whooooa, wait a minute… this is a freakin’ tree, dude!’”

American Forest Foundation Champion Tree Curator Woody Knotts estimates there’s enough carbon stored in the tree to offset 10 years’ worth of emissions from all the internal combustion engines of all the vehicles in all the armies of the world.

An obscure South Carolina law allows Bouknight and Broom, as the discoverers of the tree, to claim it for their own. The law supersedes the federal government’s claim to protect the tree by placing it on the National Register of Historic Places.

Both said they plan to retire immediately, cut down the tree and start a toothpick manufacturing facility.

Congratulations, Wesley and Steven!

The tree is so large it can actually be seen from space, as illustrated on the Google Earth satellite photo below.