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Tennessee Champion Tree Program

In the mid-1970s, Tennessee launched its champion tree program with the intention of identifying and cataloguing the largest native trees in East Tennessee. The program has expanded to accept trees from across the state. In collaboration with the Tennessee Division of Forestry, the Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries at the University of Tennessee actively administers the state champion tree program.

The program accepts nominations from September through June, and team members measure nominated trees May through August of each year. There are hundreds of champion trees that cover the state. View the most current list of the champions by species.

You can contact us or send questions to championtreehelpdesk@tennessee.edu.

Champion tree nominations are open. Please nominate a big tree today!

Champion Trees of the Month for 2021

Watch the Replay of the 2021 Tennessee Champion Tree Announcement

Champion Tree FAQs

  • Jaq Payne: Student director
  • Kayla Stuart: Data and nominations management
  • Mara Lind: Communications and social media
  • Jacob Chitwood: Mapping and measurements
  • Jimi Miller: Operations assistant
  • Dr. Sharon Jean-Philippe: Faculty advisor

Contact us at championtreehelpdesk@tennessee.edu.

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!

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).

Guidelines for basic tree circumference measurement.

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).

Definition of tree height guide.

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).

Graphic showing crown spread diagram for a tree.

How we tally the final score?

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