Majestic Tree Recognition in Arlington County

Champion Nyssa sylvatica (Black gum) gracing a house on 8th St. S

Champion Nyssa sylvatica (Black gum) gracing a house on 8th St. S

Arlington County has a number of programs designed to recognize its most outstanding trees, for the purposes of rewarding owners for maintaining them, encouraging owners to continue to do so, and for generally increasing public awareness of trees for their beauty and their benefits to the environment. Tree Steward John Wingard works with the County primarily on the Notable Tree Program through the Arlington Beautification Committee. He prepared the attached summary of these programs for a recent Tree Steward class, and it is posted on this website for future reference by Tree Stewards and the public.

In addition, Arlington County Forester Vincent Verveij recently developed an interactive map of the County’s current Champion, Notable and Significant Trees. This is a very handy tool for Tree Stewards and the public to easily identify recognized trees in their respective areas. It will assist in identifying whether a tree is already recognized in some way before it is nominated for Champion or Notable Tree status.  Find the map at, and it’s the fourth map in the rows.

If a tree on the map has been removed or severely damaged for whatever reason, that fact should be noted when the map is next updated. Therefore, if a Tree Steward notices that such an event has occurred, you are urged to notify John Wingard at jamanwin at Comcast dot net, or Vincent Verweij at

For a complete description of the Champion, Notable and Speciment tree designations read more

Descriptions by TreeSteward John Wingard Contact:


  • Largest tree of its species in Arlington County.  (Note: Alexandria doesn’t have a comparable program. It does have a “Notable Tree” list, but it is not yet published on line.)
  • Native trees only, with possible exceptions if species listed on State Champions List
  • Publicly listed by species with address (unless withheld at owner’s request), map, picture and score on County website (Click Dept. of Parks and Recreation and/or search for “trees.”)
  • Administered by County with assistance of Urban Forestry Commission and other volunteers
  • Public may make nominations at any time, see County website for form
  • Honorary award, no financial benefit or restrictions on private owners
  • There are State Big Tree Programs in most States, including DC, Maryland and Virginia, and a National Big Tree Program. The latter is administered by Ameri-can Forests, which calls itself the oldest nonprofit conservation organization in the US. The easiest way to find “big tree” sites is just to Google (“big trees”). American Trees originated the formula used for “scoring” and ranking tree size:

Circumference in inches + height in feet + 1/4 average crown spread in feet.


  • Native and non-native trees
  • Criteria for award; tree is notable for: its size and/or age; unusual species for the area; historical significance, or significance to the neighborhood
  • Awards presented by County Board at a meeting in April, as approved by the Arlington Beautification Committee.
  • Listed on County website by species, address, score and type of award
  • Types of Awards: Certificate (framed paper award); Plaque (small metal award for display outside near tree)
  • Nominations from public may be submitted to County at any time (see nomination form on website for address), but there is a specific solicitation for public nominations in the fall.
  • Listed on County website by species, address, score and type of award
  • Honorary award, no financial benefit or restrictions on private owners

SPECIMEN TREES (including Heritage, Memorial, and Street Trees)

  • Awarded and approved by County Board on recommendation of  Urban Forestry Commission and County Arborist after review, pursuant to Arlington Tree Preservation Ordinance
  • Award status protects tree from removal or injury without approval, subject to exceptions provided in the ordinance. $2500 fine for violation of ordinance.
  • Trees may be maintained at public expense
  • Public or privately-owned trees.
  • Trees may be nominated by the public at any time. See nomination forms on Co. website.


  • Not an “official” program, but you may run into this term. This is a purely administrative term and database created and maintained by County Natural Resources Specialist Greg Zell.
  • Criteria subjective, database maintained purely as a resource for identifying future champion, notable or specimen trees or trees of special botanical significance
  • No published list, although these trees may appear on County interactive maps

What Can Tree Stewards Do About These Programs?

  • Familiarize yourselves with the programs above and the lists of the various kinds of trees on the County website.
  • Be alert for potential Champion and Notable Trees as you go about your activities in the County.  Be particularly alert for unusual native species, since these are more rarely nominated.
  • If you see a tree that you think has potential as a Champion or Notable Tree, consult the applicable list and determine the relative sizes of the trees of the applicable species on the list.
  • Contact the owner, and see if he or she is open to nominating the tree for the applicable type of recognition. Work with the owner to submit the nomination to the applicable address on the nomination form or…
  • Email me at my address at the top of this document, providing the specific address of the tree, its location on the property and the probable species, and I will also check out the tree to see if it is suitable for nomination.

About TreeStewards

TreeStewards of Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia, are trained volunteers who work to protect, preserve, and enhance urban tree canopy through public education and volunteer activities such as planting, pruning, and caring for trees.
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