Miami-Dade County

Biscayne National Park crowns champion tree

For a national park that doesn't have much land, Biscayne National Park does pretty well in the tree department.

On Friday, managers for the park — which covers most of Biscayne Bay, plus a string of islands and offshore reefs — celebrated another champion in the park’s roster of national trophy trees after the American Forests National Big Tree register crowned a seven-year-apple, or Casasia clusiifolia, the largest of its kind in the nation. The award puts the park in third place for champion trees, behind Olympic and Big Bend National Parks, two large, mountain range parks with obvious tree-growing advantages over the scrappy marine preserve.

The leathery-leafed tree, growing on Totten Key, beat the competition by reaching 25 feet high. Not an obvious beauty, the tree’s lemon-shaped fruit, which can take a year to ripen, draws mockingbirds that hollow out the fruit to leave the tree adorned with the shriveled skins.

The park’s circle of winners now stands at five and includes an inkwood, a blolly, a pigeon plum and Guiana plum. Past champs include a paradise tree, a Bahama strongbark, a milkbark and a joewood.