The Giant at Quarry Park

There’s a giant in the neighborhood! Participants of Blue Ridge discovery Center’s first Amazing Trees visit met at Quarry Park to measure a truly amazing tree. The tree is an American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) and it is located along the north bank of Moore’s creek. The tree is part of the stream ecosystem called a riparian zone, and is an integral part of the human ecosystem at the site as it stands high above a baseball field in the park. I wonder how long people have been enjoying this magnificent tree?
This giant has a massive trunk (see measurements below) and the canopy (the spread of the branches) is broader than the tree’s height. Children and adults enjoyed learning how to measure the height of the tree and the spread of the canopy using a variety of methods. they also helped us take notes and fill out our data forms (thank you participants!). Other hands-on activities included exploring the details of the tree by making leaf rubbings, measuring various components of the tree, taking photographs and doing illustrations.

Participants questions (if you know the answers, chime in below!):
1) How old is this tree?
2) How old to sycamores get?

A few notable sycamore attributes:

  • Bark: Smooth, creamy white near the top of the tree, flaky and brown toward the base of the trunk.
  • Leaves: Deciduous, 4-9 inches wide and coarsely toothed.
  • Fruit: This tree is commonly recognized by the little brown globes that dangle from its outer branches

Tree statistics:

  • Height: about 115 feet (+/- 10 ft.)
  • Circumference: 184 inches
  • Spread of crown: 119 feet
  • Total Points: 329 points [Circumference (inches) + Total Height (feet) + ¼ Crown Spread (feet) = total points.]

How does it stack up to other giants?

  • Its canopy spread is the second largest American sycamore registered in Virginia! (the largest being 142 inches)
  • Its height is the fifth tallest American sycamore registered thus far in the state! (tallest being 144 inches)
  • Its total points, however, do not compete. (top 6: 398, 409, 409, 428, 444, and 454)
  • The national champion American sycamore has these proportions: Circumference: 422 inches (!?!); Height: 129 feet; Spread: 105 feet; Total points: 577. The tree is Ashland, Ohio.

Quarry Park is a little over 9 acres and has access to the Rivanna Trail.

  • Elevation: 103 meters (338 feet)
  • Longitude: -78.4769559
  • Latitude: 38.014862


  • Exposure/landcover: Full Sun
  • Aspect: relatively flat, with maybe a slight Southern tilt.
  • Ecosystem type: Riparian. Other dominant species present are box elder, green ash, silver maple, black locust and red maple
  • Geologic substrate: Catoctin Formation, meta-basalt (very high in available nutrients, especially calcium and iron)
  • Soil Type: Davidson Loam (riparian deposits may be a different soil classification), a nutrient rich, high productivity soil.

Article by Julie Roller
Photos and editing by Devin Floyd

NBC 29 was on site, and footage aired on two Central Va stations. Here is what they created: LINK

Note: Detailed protocol for measuring trees is being utilized for the Amazing Trees of Charlottesville project. This protocol aligns with various state and national protocol and standards for measuring “champion trees”. Please see links in the sources below for more information.


  • Dirr, Michael A. Manual of Woody Landscape Plants. Sixth edition. Chicago, IL: Stipes Publishing LLC. 2009.
  • National Database:
  • State Database:
  • Remarkable Trees of Virginia Project:

Project website:
BRDC website: