The California Register of Big Trees Program aims to recognize, document, and curate state and national champion tree records in California. Ritter is the current coordinator of the program. They receive nominations for champion native and cultivated trees from all over the state in a wide range of environments from national forests to historical urban areas. These champion and heritage trees bring pride to the communities surrounding them and the big tree program helps Californians learn to value and appreciate the positive environmental impact and societal benefits of large trees and trees in general. The registry currently consists of 334 champion trees, 132 national champions, and 39 co-champions. Ritter will describe the current state of many of California’s champion trees, show photographs, and give information about the natural history and ecology of our state’s most iconic forest and urban trees.
Matt Ritter is a professor in the Biology Department at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and director of the plant conservatory there. He is vice president of the San Luis Obispo Chapter of the California Native Plant Society. He has authored numerous scientific papers and botanical treatments, including the second edition of the Jepson Manual, the Flora of North America Project, and a natural history guide to San Luis Obispo’s native plants. He is also the author of A Californian’s Guide to the Trees Among Us, the state’s most popular natural history guide to the urban forest. He is the California Coordinator of the American Forests Big Tree Registry, holds a Kenan Fellowship at the National Tropical Botanical Gardens, is the chair of the City of San Luis Obispo Tree Committee, and editor-in-chief of Madroño, the journal of the California Botanical Society.