Champion trees are individual trees that are important examples of their species because of their enormous size, great age, rarity or historical significance.
The Tree Register of the British Isles has a database of over 190,000 champion trees growing in Britain. It also provides a complete list of the widest and tallest of each species. The Register has records that go back centuries. This means that modern-day growth measurements can be compared to those made by early botanists as far back as the 1600s.
The Tree Register was founded in 1988 by Alan Mitchell and Victoria Schilling. Its success is thanks to a network of enthusiastic volunteer measurers. The database is a very important tool. It helps to locate and protect champion trees as well as monitor their growth and success. It also allows us to study their wildlife value and historic management. Furthermore, the database is able to support ‘gene banks’ which work to cultivate rare or exceptional plants.
One of the greatest examples of a champion tree is ‘Majesty’ located at Fredville Park, Kent. ‘Majesty’ is one of the largest standard Pedunculate oaks (Quercus robur) in the British Isles. The tree has a fairy tale quality to it; it has a gnarly trunk that is completely hollow inside. It has a circumference of 12.10m.
Another example of a champion is a Grand fir (Abies grandis) which is one of Britain’s tallest trees. The fir grows in the woodland garden of the Ardkinglas Estate on the banks of Loch Fyne in Argyllshire.
It was common to plant exotic species in the Victorian era. It is thought the fir was brought to Argyll from North America and was planted around 1875. This specimen has done particularly well and now measures 64.28m. This is taller than Nelson’s Column in London’s Trafalgar Square.
For more information about champion trees please visit www.treeregister.org/