TAMPA – Tall, thick and healthy, a sweetbay magnolia tree in the backyard of a Tampa home has been recognized as a champion. It is certified as the largest of its species in Florida by the state Division of Forestry. It landed a place on the national list of trees by the nonprofit American Forests. The list was released Friday. The tree stands in a neighborhood a few blocks west of Woodlawn Cemetery, near Columbus Drive and North Boulevard. The property, at 809 W. Plymouth St., has been for sale until recently and is owned by the Bank of America’s home-loan branch, county property records show. The tree is 62 feet tall and 16 feet around at its base. It was nominated for the list by Jason Zysk, 39, owner of Greenworks Certified Arborist. Looking at the canopy in a visit to the property, he noted the silver sheen on the bottom of the leaves makes the magnolia glitter in the breeze. “They’re really showy trees,” Zysk said.
He credited Tampa tree protections with preserving trees like this new champion. Fines for failing to follow the laws in cutting certain trees can run into the thousands of dollars. The largest U.S. trees, 751 species, made it on the new trees list. Florida is home to 106 of them, more than any state. Also champions are a cat’s-claw in Manatee County, turkey oak in Pasco County, and a South Florida slash pine in Pinellas County. Only trees native to their area are eligible. “I would say the big trees, they give people a sense of history, a sense of longevity,” said Charlie Marcus, coordinator of Florida’s Champion Tree Program. “It’s probably for the same reason we study history, archeology.” He said these large trees are a barometer of the health of the forest.
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