I Entered a Twitter Contest and Won a BIG Prize!

Michigan Department of Treasury
3 min readMay 23, 2022


Not a cruise, or a car, or concert tickets — something physically BIGGER and far longer lasting. My prize has the potential to hit 100 feet in height and will someday take over my backyard and yes, I am talking about a TREE.

Not just any tree. The MI State Capitol Twitter account awarded me a seedling cultivated from the historic catalpa tree that stands a short throw from the Austin Blair statue’s right hand on the front lawn of Lansing’s Capitol building. My seedling’s ‘Mother Tree’ can be traced back to 1879 when the Capitol building was dedicated, and is certified by the American Forestry Association’s National Register of Big Trees. At one time, it was known as the biggest catalpa tree in existence and was honored with the title of “National Champion”.

As the Self-Guided Tour of the Michigan State Capitol (a free PDF from the Michigan Legislature) describes it: “A huge eastern catalpa tree, located just south of the Austin Blair Statue, is one of the biggest of its kind in the nation. In 1992 it measured 107 feet tall, 85 feet across the crown, and more than 20 feet around the trunk. Everything about a catalpa is big. Huge white clusters of flowers appear in the spring. Heart-shaped leaves measuring up to a foot long and eight inches across unfurl in the summer. Ten-inch seed pods, sometimes called “cigars” because of their distinctive shape, form in the autumn.”

[Pause for thought: I might have planted my seedling a little too close to my house…]

Anyway, I owe my healthy two-foot seedling to the nurturing that Michigan State University-Department of Forestry’s Tree Research Center provided to it over the last year. Keeping “living history” alive is a responsibility; I made a trek to Menards to purchase a baby tree protection kit.

Black dog sniffing the fencing surrounding a small seedling

[Another pause: I am not a gardener and “baby tree protection kit” may not be the correct terminology for fencing that wards off bunnies or my three curious dogs]

After digging an appropriate hole in my lawn I followed MSU Forestry’s planting directions. My winning Tweet may have been randomly selected to win the Capitol catalpa contest, but I take my catalpa caretaker duty very seriously! Early each morning my cup of coffee and I trot out back and stand over my seedling, willing it to live. I’ve read that good gardeners use positive energy as a tool and I’m guessing the catalpa and I could both use the extra affirmation.

Wish us luck!

Image of Capitol’s historic catalpa tree courtesy of https://twitter.com/mistatecapitol

The catalpa seedling is hoping to grow under the watch of Treasury Communications employee, Jean MacLeod.



Michigan Department of Treasury

The Department of Treasury is committed to maintaining Michigan’s financial integrity. Contact: 517-335-7508