During the history of the Garden, there have been at least nine Big Tree Champion or Challenger specimens. Unfortunately, Hurricane Irma in September 2017 damaged or destroyed several of our champions and challengers
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What are champion trees?
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 in “The National Register of Big Trees.” Visit the national registry of champion trees, which also includes Monroe County, Florida.
A separate listing is also kept by the Florida Forest Service. It contains 68 specimens located in Monroe County, labeled by categories, i.e.: Challengers, Champions, Emeritus National Champions, Florida Champions, National Champions. Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Understanding champion trees in our forest
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.