The B1G List: Ranking the State Trees of the Big Ten

By Johnny Ginter on June 17, 2013 at 4:00p
Trees, trees, the beautiful fruit


There's pretty much no such thing as a douchebag tree. One of the only exceptions to this is the racist tree, but other than that jerk, in pretty much every tree is a cool cat of the plant world. They provide shade, occasionally delicious red fruit (including my favorite, Red Delicious apples), and when they're cut down they provide a convenient morality tale for children that doubles as a metaphor for their smug parents.

So I love trees. I'm the selfish kind of environmentalist, the kind that wants to protect trees and forests and the environment mainly so that I and my future children and my children's children will have a nice quiet place to sit and think about the best place to bury incriminating evidence. Trees help provide that, along with nooks and crannies for raccoons and other potentially rabid animals to hide in.

Also trees are great at providing allergens that make my life a living hell from May through August, and are straight up crawling with ants that cover you every time you try and sit underneath one.

Woah, maybe trees aren't that great. Maybe they kind of suck? Nope, too late now, I've made my choice and I'm sticking with it. Trees are great. Here is a list of B1G state trees, meticulously ranked after an exhaustive analysis of their individual merits.

11. Nebraska- Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides)

Uggghhh the worst. Have you ever wondered where all those insane bits of fluff that float around by the hundreds of billions come from during late spring and early summer? Yeah, it's the cottonwood, here to ruin your day out at the park or the lake or where ever you were planning on heading out to on your day off. Cottonwood trees are like 40% of the reason why I'm leaning toward a totally monastic life during the summer months from now on.

Ideal piece of literature to read beneath its shade: If I Did It, by Harvey Updyke

10. Pennsylvania- Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis)

The eastern hemlock is not poisonous, and did not play a role in the death of Socrates. Despite being a pine tree, it's also a pretty crappy Christmas tree, because it sheds its needles almost as soon as it gets cut down. And, on top of all that, it's being threatened by a lowly little insect that devours its sap.

*salutes*Thar she grows!

So, quick run down here: can't kill a feeble old dude, doesn't like celebrating family holidays, gets beaten up by even the lowliest of animals. A shameful tree indeed.

Ideal piece of literature to read beneath its shade: The Allegory of the Cave, preferably out loud and in a mocking tone of voice.

9. Iowa- Corn (MON810)

Delicious and nutritious, the mighty corn rises over the many hills and valleys of the great state of Iowa, providing shade and sustenance to hundreds of millions of people around the world. Corn is capable of growing nearly 10 feet high (although some types grow even higher), and lucky Iowans who can climb to the top of corn are greeted by a breathtaking view that stretches far and wide.

Ideal piece of literature to read beneath its shade: 11-796 BOWMAN v. MONSANTO Co. et al

8. & 7. Illinois and Maryland- White Oak (Quercus alba)

Both state stumbled upon the white oak as their official tree through some interesting methods. Illinois actually let a bunch of schoolkids vote on it, in which the white oak barely beat out PIZZA!!! and the venerable boobs tree, whereas Maryland actually had possession of the world's oldest living white oak until a wolf huffed and puffed and knocked it down. So they cloned it and planted it again in the same spot, and old man McGillicutty never knew the difference! Tee hee!

Ideal piece of literature to read beneath its shade: Amazing Spider-Man #149

6. New Jersey- Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra)

The northern red oak is about as generic as trees get. If you're walking down the street, minding your own business, and someone on a car screams at you THINK OF A TREE, completely non-BS studies have shown that 87% of the time, that person will think of a northern red oak. In addition to being highly generic, their wood is perfectly suited for indoor building uses. So if you want to be a cool guy at a party, look at any woodworking and tell everybody "hey I bet that's northern red oak."

When the host inevitably shrugs and says "uh, I 'unno," you now have the upper hand and may make a move on his fiancee at any time. And if there happens to be someone around who actually knows what different types of wood look like, you've got at least a 50/50 chance of being right and having someone to back you up.

Ideal piece of literature to read beneath its shade: Identifying Wood, by R. Bruce Hoadley

5. Indiana- Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)

5 points for the cool-ass tree with buds that look like the plant from Little Shop of Horrors, negative a billion points to Indiana for copying Kentucky and Tennessee's state trees. Really? Of all trees, SEC state trees? I'm not mad, I'm just... I'm just disappointed, Indiana. Wait for us in the car.

Ideal piece of literature to read beneath its shade: Queen Bees and Wannabes, by Rosalind Wiseman

4. Michigan- Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus)

A decent pine tree, which puts it head and shoulders above most other trees. One thing I learned while doing my usual research for this post (ie, going on Wikipedia and opening up a tab for each state tree) is that the needles of the eastern white pine tree contain more vitamin C by weight than lemons do.

Now, that particular fact wasn't properly cited, so there's a pretty good chance that it's weapons grade hippie BS, but in my opinion that shouldn't stop millions of Michigan Wolverine fans from shoving handfuls of pine needles into their mouths. Right now.


Ideal piece of literature to read beneath its shade: The Master Cleanser, by Stanley Burroughs

3. Wisconsin- Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)

Yes, Wisconsin shares their state tree with three other states, but who cares? The sugar maple is the tree that Paul Bunyan himself would wring out and drink the delicious morsels that come forth, for you see, the sugar maple brings us maple syrup. Aside from being the sole component of the economy of Vermont, the sugar tree is a beautiful example of Mother Nature deciding for once not to totally screw us. The evolutionary forces at work that led to a tree's sap being a perfect complement to all manner of waffles and pancakes astounds me. Truly breathtaking.

Ideal piece of literature to read beneath its shade: The lyrics to this, over and over and over

2. Minnesota- Red Pine (Pinus resinosa)

Generally speaking, my favorite trees are incredibly tall trees that reach heights that most buildings in my hometown can't even aspire to. I love both the enormity of them and also the fact that they're really just macro versions of even the smallest blades of grass, creating a kind of weird and beautiful symmetry that is only really found in nature.

But mostly I like the idea of some nerd getting hung by his underwear way up in the branches of one, and since the red pine can grow to almost 150 feet high, that is straight up hilarious to me. SALUTE YOUR SHORTS, NERDLINGER AHAHAHAH!!

Ideal piece of literature to read beneath its shade: Probably something by some dork about geek stuff

1. Ohio- Ohio Buckeye (Aesculus glabra)

Well, duh. I've been accused of showing favoritism toward Ohio in these lists (I don't see it), but I think that the Ohio Buckeye is pretty clearly the best on this list. We all know about the ingeniously poison nuts, which is like a cool inside joke in the plant world that no one really gets until they're dead.

Short aside: when I taught English in Japan a few years back, I brought some Buckeye nuts with me as a symbol of where I was from. I had the kids look at them and pass them around, and when they were done, I told them that what they had just handled was straight poison. And then I told them they'd be fine, but not before 10 seconds or so of them freaking out.

Anyway, aside from representing Ohioans in general and having poison nuts, the Ohio Buckeye is also a Class A climbing tree, and provides some pretty incredible shade. And speaking of which...

Ideal piece of literature to read beneath its shade: The Winner's Manual, by James Tiberius Tressel

And that'll wrap it up for this week. Next week we cast our gaze at the various state capitals of the B1G, and think real long and hard about why Lansing is better than Harrisburg. See you then!

The B1G List: State Birds | State Mottos | State FlowersState Songs | State Fossils | State Flags | TV Shows

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