What Is a Heritage Tree?

What is a heritage tree? And if I have one, what does that mean for my property?

In this article, Ace Tree Service, your expert tree service in Fair Oaks, CA, unpacks heritage trees and your potential responsibilities if you’re lucky enough to have one.

What Is a Heritage Tree? 

When you understand how trees grow, you’ll better understand why older trees are so important. Trees can live for hundreds or thousands of years, but they must survive many risk factors, of which humans are the worst. A heritage tree, which is one that’s large, old, and irreplaceable, is the equivalent of an ecological treasure. 

The Classification of a Heritage Tree

To know its value, heritage tree qualification and definition depends on several aspects, such as:  

  • Size and measurement criteria 
  • Species and age considerations
  • Historic and ecological significance
  • Aesthetics and location

Heritage Tree Classification Factors in More Detail


What is a heritage tree? Experts commonly consider trees with a diameter of 4.5 feet at breast height significant. However, this can differ according to the species and how many trunks you’re dealing with. 

Different states have differing definitions of what constitutes a significant size for a tree. In some cases, assessors may look at the tree’s canopy spread and height in addition to the trunk diameter. They may also assign points or designate a tree as a “Champion” instead of a heritage tree if it doesn’t quite meet the criteria.


Most heritage trees are local species that enhance a community’s character. They’re often rare, so they may carry protected status. 

The type of tree may also disqualify a specimen from this title. For example, apple trees used for commercial purposes cannot qualify as heritage trees, no matter their size or age. 


Age is a common factor used to determine heritage status, although it’s often a guess without definitive records of when someone planted the tree. Experts can estimate how old the tree is based on its size and species, though.

Historic Significance 

When communities associate a tree with a notable event, landscape, structure, or person, it’s historically significant. The measure is subjective, as one person’s significant event may not match another person’s. 

For example, a tree the town decorates every year for Christmas may achieve heritage status, as would trees planted as memorials. The final decision usually rests with the city council or advisory board.

Ecological Value

Any tree is an important part of the area’s ecology, but some are more valuable than others. If a tree is a nesting site for an endangered species or a food source, the city may declare it significant. If it’s one of the few remaining specimens, it may be genetically significant, too.


Beauty is highly subjective. Some like a perfectly symmetrical tree, while others value trees with unusual character, but aesthetics remain a factor here.

Contact Ace Tree Service and Preserve Your Heritage Tree!

What is a heritage tree worth? It’s priceless. If you suspect you have one or have questions like whether trees die of old age, Ace Tree Service can help. Call (916) 934-3204 to learn more!