Champion Trees

Black Oak from Giles, Co. TN

Black Oak from Giles, Co. TN

In the mid nineteen seventies, Tennessee launched it’s champion tree program with the intention of identifying and cataloguing the largest native trees in East Tennessee. Prior to the re-measurements in 2016, the program had expanded to include 263 eligible species and cover the entire state. Click on the “Champs by species” icon on the left side of the screen to view the most current list of champions by species.

How Are Champion Trees Identified?

A champion tree candidate is awarded points based upon trunk circumference, crown spread, and total height. If the candidate tree is awarded a total point value that exceeds that of the current champion by five or more, or there is no current champion, that candidate assumes the title. If the total point value of two trees is within five, they may share the title as co-champions.

After a nomination is submitted a trained evaluator will be dispatched to conduct champion tree measurements.

Champion tree nominations are always accepted. Click on the submission form to start the process!

The Art of Measuring Trees

Trunk Circumference: circumference is measured at 4.5 feet above the ground directly above the center of the trunk. If the tree bifurcates below 4.5 feet, than the largest of the two forks is measured. If bifurcation occurs at 4.5 feet, then circumference is taken at the narrowest place below the fork. Trunk circumference is measured in inches with a forestry DBH tape (Basic circumference measurement diagram was adapted from American Forest Workshop, University of Tennessee, 2016).

Tree Circumference

Tree Height: For the purpose of champion identification, tree height is considered to be the vertical distance from the base of the trunk to the topmost twig. To ensure accuracy of measurement, a laser range finder is used. Height is measured to the nearest foot (Tree height definition was adapted from American Forest Workshop, University of Tennessee, 2016).

Tree Height

Average Crown Spread: As trees grow asymmetrically, points awarded for crown spread are based upon the average of the tree’s widest and narrowest points. Average crown spread = (wide spread + narrow spread) / 2. Again, to ensure accuracy of measurement, a laser rangefinder is used (Crown spread diagram was adapted from American Forest Workshop, University of Tennessee, 2016).

Crown Spread

Final Scoring:

After measurements are completed, champion status is determined in the following manner:

  • One (1) point for each inch in circumference
  • One (1) point for each foot in height
  • One-fourth (1/4) point for each foot in average crown spread

Total points = circumference in inches + height in feet + one fourth of the average crown spread in feet

Once you have the total points of your tree, compare it with its species on the Tennessee Champion Tree List and if your tree scores higher than the current champion or is close in points to a current champion, submit your nomination to the following address:

Tennessee Urban Forestry Council
P.O. Box 50711
Knoxville, TN 37950