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Wright Park’s 27-acre site includes a rich collection of native and exotic trees, many of which are over 100 years old. The original plantings included trees from all over North America and Europe. Later plantings added trees from Asia and South America. Currently, there are over 600 trees including approximately 145 species in Wright Park.

Tree Identification

A tree tagging project was completed in the fall of 2015. Now, each of about 450 trees bears a label that identifies it by its scientific and common names, its geographic origin and the year it was planted in the park. The signs were installed by volunteer interns under the direction of Urban Forester Mark McDonough.

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Champion Trees

Champion trees are the biggest trees of their species. The American Forest Association (AFA) has various ways in which a tree can be considered the biggest: circumference (trunk girth), height, and crown spread.

Eighteen of the trees in our Champion Tree tour were recognized as Washington State Champion Trees by Dr. Robert Van Pelt, in his book Champion Trees of Waashington State. Rankings may change over time due to a multitude of factors, and a comprehensive survey has not been conducted or published since 1996.

Champion Tree Tour Booklet

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Arboretum History

In 1886 when Charles B. Wright and the Tacoma Land Company donated approximately 20 acres of land to Tacoma for a public park, one of the stipulations was the planting of at least 300 ornamental shade trees within four years. Professional landscape designer Edward Otto Schwagerl was commissioned to design Wright Park and E.R. Roberts was hired in 1890 to continue the work Schwagerl started.

Among the historically significant trees are a red oak planted in 1903 in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt’s visit to Tacoma, a gray birch planted in 1929 to honor all mothers of the city, and a giant sequoia planted in 1939 in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the adoption of the U.S. Constitution.

The original planting plan has been lost, but we can still see much of the historic layout in the patterns of the old trees. These patterns have been respected throughout park improvements and renovations over the last century, and the park district continues to plant young trees in the tradition of providing beauty and diversity for all to enjoy.