The Giant Sycamore Tree of Worthington Indiana
Worthington, Indiana is a town of about 1,500 people in Greene County, about thirty miles west of Bloomington. The main road passing through the town is U.S. 231. If you happen to find yourself traveling through Worthington on U.S. 231, I recommend you take a side trip of a few blocks to the west of the highway, The City Park is located on the north edge of town, on Worthington Street. It is shown in green on the map below.
Near the front of the park you will see a remnant of what was once the largest broad leaf tree in the United States. The section there is about 23 feet in circumference, which is pretty big, but what's really impressive is that this is not from the trunk of the tree, but from a limb, and not even the tree's largest limb at that.
Map of Worthington, Indiana
History of the Tree
The age of this giant sycamore was estimated at 500 years in 1915. That means it first sprouted years before Columbus sailed for the New World. It grew about one and a half miles east of Worthington near the White River.
The tree was known to locals as a good place for a picnic. The tree's trunk had become hollow with age, so they could have their picnics inside the tree. Because of its immense size, a horse and buggy could be hidden behind it.
The tree was also used to mark flood levels. After a major flood in 1875, a railroad spike was hammered into the tree at the high water mark. After the Great Flood of 1913, another spike was hammered into the tree at an even higher level.
The sycamore tree became famous nationally when it was featured on a postcard in 1910. That image is shown in the top photo. Note the tiny horse and carriage to the left of the trunk, which was included for scale.
In 1915 measurements of tree were made and included in Charles C. Deam's Trees of Indiana:
- Circumference of 45' 3" at one foot above ground level
- Circumference of 42' 3" at five feet above ground level
- The east limb had a circumference of 27' 8"
- The west limb had a circumference of 23' 3"
- Height of 150' (estimated)
- Spread of 100' (estimated)
A few years later the tree blew down in a thunderstorm. Sources differ on whether this occurred in 1920 or 1925. A section of the west limb was cut and moved to its present location in 1925.