Champion Trees

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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You can help replace our trees

Join our Tree Tribute program


Hurricane Irma in September 2017 destroyed or damaged several of the tropical forest trees. Irma destroyed one Champion tree, the Pigeon Plum. The storm knocked down three other trees, the Milkbark, the Wild Dilly and Black Olive. These trees are still alive and we are working hard to save them. One of our Legacy trees was damaged. You can help replace those trees through our Tribute Tree program. Tribute amounts for trees vary, depending on the age and location of the tree. Trees closer to the paths and public viewing require larger donations than those smaller, but still important, plants within the collection. Weatherproof plaques with the names and inscription of the tribute will be attached to the tree
or placed on a stand in front of the tree.

What are champion trees?

Understanding champion trees in our forest

Anyone is eligible to submit nominations for the Champion or Challenger tree status, Each website database contains the specific requirements and the necessary forms. No invasive tree species will be accepted, but non-native, naturalized species will be considered. 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 can change from year to year.

Tree damage

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.


Natural care

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.

More competition

3. As more people become interested and participate, more specimens get identified (reason for point systems and challengers and even co-challengers.)


No assessments

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.


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