TROY arboretum’s pond pine named Champion Tree by Alabama Forestry Commission

TROY owns one of 142 Champion Trees representing 130 distinct species.

TROY owns one of 142 Champion Trees representing 130 distinct species.

Troy University’s arboretum is the official home of a Champion Tree, housing the largest pond pine tree in Alabama, and was formally recognized Thursday by the Alabama Forestry Commission.

Typically reaching heights of 60-80 feet, TROY’s pond pine was measured at 87 feet high. Scientifically named Pinus serotina, pond pines are native to the southern third of the state and grow in bogs, seeps, flatwoods and around depression ponds. Pond pines are listed as an S1 species in Alabama—or very rare.

We’re at the edge of the range where this species grows,” said Dr. Alvin Diamond, biology professor and arboretum Director. “It likes really boggy, seepy sites, and it has to have fire, like most pine trees. The combination of most of these wet, boggy sites being drained for farming or impounded for ponds and the lack of fires or controlled burns means these trees aren’t reproducing. This is a big event for not just the arboretum, but the University and surrounding county.”

The pond pine
The Champion Tree can be found off the trail behind the pond.

The Alabama Forestry Commission honors the largest tree of each species in Alabama through the Alabama Champion Tree Program. The program began in 1970 when 28 champion trees were identified. Today, there are 142 champion trees representing 130 distinct species in 47 out of 67 counties. Once a champion tree is identified, its owner and nominator each receive a certificate and the owner receives a sign to place near the tree.

“Everyone in the state now knows that out of the whole State of Alabama, this is the largest pond pine. This isn’t something you see very often, especially in that species, so it speaks to the care that’s been put into it,” said Jacob Hill, Pike County forester. “We’re excited for everyone here, and hopefully this tree doesn’t get knocked off again, we’ve already been out here to certify it once. Especially for people who have a love of the outdoors, it’s something cool and a fun competition.”

Dr. Sig Harden, Chair of the Biology Department, said receiving the award was like a metaphor for the University’s goal for its students.

“This tree has found its perfect place here at Troy University and it’s grown big and strong and become a champion, and that’s what we hope for our students,” he said, “that they’ll find TROY is their perfect environment to grow and thrive and become a champion, whether it’s in the classroom or the board room or the courtroom, on the field or maybe even in the forest.”

To be eligible for nomination as an Alabama Champion, a tree must: 

  • Not be a shrub (a single, woody stem at least 13’ tall)
  • Have a circumference of at least 16” when measured 4.5’ above the ground 
  • Not be poisonous or hazardous 
  • Be native or naturalized in Alabama (a “naturalized” tree is a tree species not native to Alabama that has established itself in the wild, reproducing and spreading naturally) 
  • Not be considered “invasive” by the Alabama Invasive Plant Council 

TROY’s Champion Tree measures 55 inches in circumference with a crown spread of 25 feet.

The arboretum encompasses 75-acres and features seven and a half miles of nature trails, over 500 identified plant species, a pond, an outdoor classroom and an indoor classroom. Restoration efforts began in early 2022 when care of the arboretum was transferred back under the wing of Diamond and the College of Arts and Sciences. Since then, and with the help of a team of volunteers from across the University and community, extensive work has been done to return the grounds to its former glory.

TROY Foundation account has been created to accept donations. Those interested in volunteering can contact Diamond by phone at 334-670-3938 or by email at adiamond@troy.edu.

To stay up-to-date on the latest projects, visit the arboretum’s Facebook page.

A group photo in front of the tree.
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