DUMMERSTON -- Esther Falk understands that there are people who are willing to travel to see the butternut tree on the side of her house in Dummerston.
The tree, which is included in Windham County Forester Bill Guenther's annual tree tour, is one of the largest in the state, and every year Falk makes sure she is around when the tour stops at her house.
"Tree lovers are special people," said Falk, 92. "They come here in all weather to see a tree. I think that's amazing."
Guenther is leading his tour around Windham County Saturday to some of the largest known specimens in Vermont.
The tour starts at 8:30 a.m. at the Vernon Town Offices at 567 Governor Hunt Rd.
At around 8:45 Guenther will lead the group to the state champion sassafras, a species that thrives farther south but which barely reaches in to Vermont.
Through the morning Guenther will show the group a runner-up black walnut in West Brattleboro, the state champion silver maple on Putney Road and the champion sugar maple in Dummerston.
Between 11:55 and 12:25 the group will break for lunch beneath Falk's butternut tree.
In the afternoon Guenther will take the group from Putney to Wardsboro and on to Londonderry and Harmonyville.
The white pine in Londonderry is the tallest known tree in Vermont, standing at 144 feet.
A few years ago some of the people on the tour thought Falk's tree should be cabled, and they returned a few weeks after the tour to help support some of tree's massive branches.
Falk said she will be there Saturday to show off her butternut tree and maybe share recipes with people who are interested in cooking with the nuts.
"I've been here 56 years and this tree has been growing here the whole time," she said.
Guenther said the tour is a fun chance to look at some of the most impressive trees in southeastern Vermont, but he also says there is serious science involved.
Every state keeps a tree registry of the largest specimens.
The trees are measured with a formula that takes into account the height, crown dimension and circumference of each tree.
Each inch gets a point.
The largest known tree in the United States, a giant sequoia in California, scores 1,321 points.
Any tree in Vermont that scores over 250 is considered large, he said.
The giant silver maple on Putney Road, just north of True Value, scores 353 points on the scale.
He said there is a playful competition among the county foresters in the state.
While the trees grow slowly, every year tress fall, limbs are lost or trees are discovered in remote areas.
"Most human beings are fascinated by large trees," Guenther said. "It's interesting to see how big these organisms can get."
This year will be a bittersweet tour, said Guenther.
The state champion sugar maple in Dummerston is sick and probably will not last another year.
Sometimes Guenther gets up to 30 people on the tour.
At each tree the group stops to get a short history of the tree and species, and there is time to stand among the tree and admire it.
"This tour is a good way for people to connect with trees," Guenther said. "This is not about logging or tree management. It's a celebration of trees."
The tour is free and tree fans are welcome to go on the entire tour or just portions of it.
For more information contact Carol Morrison at UVM Extension at 802-257-7967, or email Guenther at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at email@example.com; or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. You can follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer