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Washington's weirdest and most wonderful trees

If these trees could talk, some would tell a story going back more than a thousand years. #k5evening

SEATTLE — From colossal champs to quirky misfits, the trees of Washington state have tales to tell.

"They give us a sense of place," said Michelle Rau of Seattle's Plant Amnesty, a group that's working to defend trees and plant life in urban spaces.

Rau and her colleague, Maggie Rogers, want you to notice these natural treasures.

"One of the most amazing things to watch (is) people start to see the trees around them," Rau said.

Take, for instance, the whimsical Monkey Puzzle tree.

"They're planted all over Seattle and they are huge," Rogers said.

You'll find plenty around 60 years old, all around Puget Sound, for a very good reason.

"During the 1962 World's Fair, they handed out Monkey Puzzle trees," Rogers said.

One giant on the Olympic Peninsula is more than a thousand years old. With a diameter of nearly 20 feet, the "Duncan Cedar" is the largest Western Red Cedar in the world, and one of the biggest trees by volume of any species.

"People stand in awe," Rau said.

Not far from there, in Quinault, the world's largest spruce towers over Grays Harbor.

"It's bigger than any tree outside the state of California," said Dave Morrison, the owner of Rain Forest Resort Village, where the tree is located.

Port Gamble's prized Camperdown Elm is a twisted novelty.

"Brought into the Unites States," Rau said.

It's the offspring of a Scottish mutant that can only exist through human intervention and the process of grafting one tree to another.

"All trees come from that original tree," Rogers explained.

"An abnormality of an Elm tree that is stuck on top of another Elm tree," Rau added.

Giant Sequoias, or Redwoods, make an impression wherever you find them.

"The oldest one is 2,500 years old," Rogers said.

Especially here, outside their natural range.

"The Giant Sequoia is native to Northern California," Rogers explained.

Tacoma's Jefferson Park boasts a biggie. And Centennial Park in Olympia was built just to protect the city's tallest tree.

Olympia's Capitol Campus features an extraterrestrial Doug Fir. It was grown from a seed that traveled to the moon on Apollo 14.

"I haven't been here at night but I've always wondered if it glows in the dark," horticulturist Brent Chapman joked.

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Two American Chestnuts in Tumwater were planted in 1846, back when there were more than a billion of the species from coast to coast.

"A blight came to the United States and started wiping them out in masses," Rogers said.

This pair somehow escaped that devastating blight and now thrives as the largest in the country.

But the state's hardiest survivor is Kalaloch's "Tree of Life," a Sitka Spruce that defies the odds, and gravity, by straddling a gap along the shoreline, its exposed roots clinging to the cliff sides.

"The tree basically isn't rooted into anything, yet somehow it survives," Rau said. "Trees are stronger than we think they are." 

Look to the trees of Washington state for history taken root, and stories reaching skyward.

RELATED: Olympia's Moon Tree just had triplets

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