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Evergreen likely to be biggest in Minnesota measured in Brainerd

BRAINERD, Minn.-Dr. Roland Kehr and his late wife Pat moved into the house at 723 N. Fourth Street in Brainerd 40 years ago.The couple was told the eastern hemlock, also called a Canadian hemlock, in their front yard could be a state record.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources forester Alex Brothen (left) and Dr. Roland Kehr study the eastern hemlock which grows at his home at 723 North Fourth Street in Brainerd. The tree which was measured Tuesday for the Big Tree Registry is only one of 50 mature trees surviving in Minnesota. Steve Kohls / Forum News Service
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources forester Alex Brothen (left) and Dr. Roland Kehr study the eastern hemlock which grows at his home at 723 North Fourth Street in Brainerd. The tree which was measured Tuesday for the Big Tree Registry is only one of 50 mature trees surviving in Minnesota. Steve Kohls / Forum News Service
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BRAINERD, Minn.-Dr. Roland Kehr and his late wife Pat moved into the house at 723 N. Fourth Street in Brainerd 40 years ago.

The couple was told the eastern hemlock, also called a Canadian hemlock, in their front yard could be a state record.

At that time, Roland promised Pat he would have that tree measured someday. Roland always thought about the tree being a state record. So last week while checking on another matter at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Kehr strolled into the forestry office and talked to the foresters, who made plans to send out someone to check his tree.

Kehr heard about the current state record eastern hemlock, which grows on private land near Isle. It has a circumference of 52 inches, height of 65 feet with a crown measuring 25 feet. On Tuesday, forester Alex Brothen rang the doorbell at the Brainerd home and the measuring process began.

After calculations and measurements by Brothen, Kehr's tree has a circumference of 87.5 inches, height of 58 feet and a crown of 51.5 feet. The eastern hemlock may reach a maximum height of 100 feet with a diameter of about 2 feet.

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The state record will be determined by an equation which enters all the measurements and gives the tree a score. The Isle tree is officially 123 points and the unofficial score for the Kehr tree is 158.2. If Kehr's tree wins, it will be entered as a state record in the Big Tree Registry for the state of Minnesota.

"Pat would not believe it, I finally got the tree measured," quipped Kehr.

The DNR reports the eastern hemlock is one of Minnesota's rarest and most imperiled trees. In 2013, the tree was listed as endangered. The eastern hemlock is similar to other conifers except it has drooping or trailing aspect to its branches with soft evergreen leaves. The largest stand of eastern hemlocks in the state was once in St. Louis County before 8,000 railroad ties were cut from the stand in 1912. The Moose Lake-Cloquet fire of 1918 destroyed all but a few individual trees that later died off. Now the DNR reports there are about 10 sites left with perhaps 50 mature trees. The largest stand consists of 12 mature trees and other sites may have a single tree.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources forester Alex Brothen (left) and Dr. Roland Kehr study the eastern hemlock which grows at his home at 723 North Fourth Street in Brainerd. The tree which was measured Tuesday for the Big Tree Registry is only one of 50 mature trees surviving in Minnesota. Steve Kohls / Forum News Service
Dr. Roland Kehr (left) helps MNDNR forester Alex Brothen measure the circumference of his Eastern (Canadian) hemlock Tuesday at his home at 723 North Fourth Street in Brainerd. Kehr is settling a 40 year-old question of whether or not his tree is a state record and belongs on the Big Tree Registry. Photo by Steve Kohls / Forum News Service

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