Trees of Special Interest

What are Special Trees?

Special trees are outstanding examples because of their age, the habitat they provide, their size, their association with our history and culture or their presence in the landscape. There are 5 categories of special trees, namely

  • Ancient or aged
  • Veteran
  • Champion
  • Heritage
  • Notable

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Ancient Trees

An ancient tree is one that has passed beyond maturity and is old, or aged, in comparison with other trees of the same species.

Veteran Trees

There is no precise or single definition of a veteran tree, rather veteran is a term describing a tree with habitat features such as splitscavitiesdecaydeadwood and fungal fruiting bodies. A veteran tree, as shown in this image, is a survivor that has developed habitat features found on an ancient tree, not necessarily as a consequence of time, but of its life or environment.

All ancient trees are veteran but not all veteran trees are ancient.

veteran beech

champion trees


A champion tree is one that is the tallest or has the largest stem circumference of its species in the UK (or sometimes a given region). A champion may be a young tree: a rare or introduced species of tree may be quite young for its species but it can be the tallest or have the widest trunk when compared with other trees of the same species in the UK.


A heritage tree is one that has contributed to or is connected to our history or culture and includes:

  • historicalarchaeological, or cultural associations, especially with important or colourful events or famous people
  • aesthetic appearancelandscape character or architectural setting
  • rare or having great botanical interest

Tolpuddle Martyrs tree

The Tolpuddle Martyrs tree at Tolpuddle in Dorset


Notable trees are stand out trees in their local environment. They may be large by comparison with other trees around them or they may be small but the only tree for miles around.

Reference: Ancient tree guide 4: What are ancient, veteran and other trees of special interest – November 2008 published by the Woodland Trust