In 1940, the American Forests Organization created the Champion Trees program. The intent was to identify and track the biggest specimen of each species of tree native to the United States. Currently, a revised list is published every other year – “The National Register of Big Trees.”
Tree Tribute Program
A tree is a wonderful tribute to a member of your family or a friend. It provides a positive contribution that you leave behind for the generations that follow. It serves to document your generosity and offers you, your family, and your friends ongoing pleasure as you enjoy the Garden in the years to come.
Anyone is eligible to submit nominations for the Champion or Challenger Tree Status. Each website contains the specific requirements to do so, as well as the necessary forms. No invasive tree species will be accepted, but native and non-native, naturalized species will be considered. The assignment is based on a point system, with points awarded for characteristics such as circumference at breast height (defined as 4.5 feet), height, and canopy spread.
The status of specific individual Champions and Challengers frequently changes from year to year, due to a number of reasons.
1. Trees may be damaged or destroyed by fires and storms, hurricanes, etc. That has happened to a number of the Key West Tropical Forest & Botanical Garden’s previously listed champion and challenger trees.
2. Our garden does not fertilize and water specimens in order to obtain maximum size, in contrast to most horticultural institutions. Consequently, our specimens tend to be outgrown by those receiving such care.
3. As more people become interested and participate, more specimens get identified (reason for point systems and challengers and even co-challengers.)
4. Due to restrictions in personnel and time, out-passed challengers and champions don’t get re-assessed and measured. Their points might actually have gone up since their initial proposals and submissions and might actually re-qualify if new data was submitted.
During the history of the Garden, there have been at least nine Big Tree Champion or Challenger specimens shown below: