Florida’s position at the foot of the North America, its peninsula stretching languidly toward the tropics, results in diverse set of forest communities including about 465 species of native trees and shrubs. Add to that a wide array of introduced species and you have one of the longest lists of champion trees in the United States.
Florida has the nation’s largest recorded specimens for 94 different species. That’s out of 695 for the entire nation. A database maintained by the Florida Forest Service lists state champions for an additional 167 species. National champions are the largest specimens of their species in the state, but are not double counted as state champions.
Trees vying for the title of champion are scored by adding their circumference in inches, height in feet, and one-forth of the average crown spread in feet. The largest Florida tree of any species is a kapok tree (Ceiba pentandra) in Palm Beach County. It has a circumference of 899 inches (23.8 feet in diameter) and a height of 74 feet.
The kapok is an introduced species, so the largest specimen of a native species is a bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) in Hamilton County. It has a circumference of 557 inches (14.8 feet in diameter) and a height of 84 feet.
Champion trees don’t have to be huge. The national champion corkwood (Leitneria floridana) in Leon County is only nine inches in circumference and 17 feet tall.
Miami-Dade County has the greatest number of champions with 23 national champions and 39 Florida champions. Alachua County, home of the University of Florida, is second with six national champions and 19 Florida champions. Monroe County which includes the Florida Keys has the highest number of national champions, 24, and four additional Florida champions.