Trophy Trees: Prized by the Rich and Famous

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Last updated: April 19, 2023

Many companies have expertise develop landscapes with natural habitats. For example, an experienced company will know that an ideal water depth is required to support a fish sanctuary, promote algae growth, and growth of larger fish. Some clients have requested artificial fish habitats or artificial pond habitats while other clients have considered the design of large fish habitat structures which support lake habitat goals.

Table of Contents

  1. What are Trophy Trees?
  2. Who Buys Trophy Trees?
  3. Why Trophy Trees?
    1. Trophy Trees: The Green Integrity Story
  4. The Three Types of Trophy Tree
    1. Living Trees
    2. Artificial Trophy Trees
    3. Preserved Trophy Trees
  5. The Advantages of Trophy Trees
    1. Unique Status Symbol for the Uber Rich
    2. Distinct, Original Look
    3. No Need to Start from Scratch
    4. Preserving Historic Trees
  6. Disadvantages of Trophy Trees
    1. License and Special Accommodations
    2. Aftercare Costs
    3. Private Owners May Not Sell
  7. Key Considerations Before Buying
    1. Environmental Impact
    2. Tree Health
  8. Choosing the Best Tree Broker
    1. Credentials
    2. Experience
    3. Full Service Experience
    4. Insurance and License

What are Trophy Trees?

Trophy trees are old, large, and aesthetically pleasing trees. The uniqueness and age of some of these trees are what make them expensive. They can be used as a structural element or as central décor to any property. Trophy trees can be found in most backyards for wealthy homeowners. However, they can also be found in resorts and restaurants worldwide. Many companies specialize in the identification and transportation logistics of large trophy trees. These specialized companies travel around the world and identify statement trees for their esteemed clients. Trophy trees are available in many different species types. 

Who Buys Trophy Trees?

Trophy trees are the new trend for the rich and famous. A trophy tree is a distinguishing ornamental feature of a large, luxury home and property. If you can afford it, you can spend the most time finding the best trophy tree for your backyard. America’s rich and famous are spending thousands of dollars to transport the trees to their property. The trees can be transported using flatbed trucks or helicopters. Wealthy homeowners have reportedly paid up to $250,000 to have these trees transported to the intended destination. There are additional installation and maintenance costs too.

The rich tend to have a worldview or mindset where their expectations are more on-demand. The rich don’t mind spending tens of thousands of dollars to have their properties stand out to neighbors or the world. They are not willing to wait for seedlings to grow into big trees. They want trophy trees with lush canopies that are ready with careful installation. Exotic tree brokers make this easy because of their experience to identify perfect trophy trees for wealthy estates.

Why Trophy Trees?

The majority of people wonder why trophy trees are important and if they are really worth it. They offer a great presence; especially, for a big house. It is for this reason why the rich are targeted by companies that sell trophy trees. The largest trees help the scale of a large property and take advantage of unused areas. A tree that is old, unique, and is very appealing looks just like art. It is also a conversational piece as it makes the surroundings of any home look discrete and adds to the beauty of any place. In the long run, it is a good option for high net worth buyers. Homeowners and those in hospitality establishments don’t have to wait for the trees to grow, which can take many years. Fabricated statement trees also come in different types. It is easy to turn your dream into a reality as long as you have the budget to do it.

Trophy Trees: The Green Integrity Story

Walter Acree, for decades, operated a modest landscaping business located in Deerfield Beach, Florida. He is known as a tree-broker and is recognized for developing his own technique known as the arbor division, by extracting a living piece of habitat from one place and creating a new, complete habitat system for a client’s luxury home or commercial lobby.

Walter’s company, Green Integrity, has benefited from the opportunistic nature of wealthy Americans seeking status symbols. It is a perfect setup. Mr. Acree’s job has become a lucrative niche business in the United States over the past year. A wealthy client’s property can now become a haven for re-colonized trees. Walter’s company aims to find trophy trees and his “extraction process” is a perfect full service for his clients. South Florida’s superrich finds trophy trees from many different species types. Species types can be circus trees, Fiscus, banyan, baobab, enormous canopied oak, giant kapok, or even giant sequoias.

Mr. Acree’s job requires his team to examine other commercial or residential properties, such as from a backyard pond that has plenty of plant-like growth to support a cluster of habitat for the perfect tree. The goal is the search for the perfect tree. In consultation with clients, Green Integrity then approaches landowners to close the deal and to over-deliver on the service experience.

Once an unsolicited offer is accepted, Walter’s company does what it does best. It starts the extraction process. Careful attention is paid to the limb design, and because of the flexible limb pattern, the tree can be cut vertically into individual pieces, using 6-foot-long saws with hardened blades, ensuring the root wad is maintained. This is essentially the trunk of a dead tree, where the roots remain attached, but the soil is removed to ensure the living roots are still exposed. However, a collection of sediment is kept to ensure the feel of natural cover and a healthy installation at the new location.

After lifting the large tree with a 300-ton crane using prong attachments, a long flatbed truck with large ratchet straps is used to ship the trophy tree to the client’s property. The tree is then re-assembled using steel aircraft cable at a location that considers the habitat’s surface area. For the trophy tree’s pole, landscape companies can use something like a Mossback fish habitat block adapter or a concrete block adapter, or PVC trunk, which is a thermoplastic material used in pipes, cable insulation, and wire. Any item is a great choice.

Some clients have requested artificial fish habitats or artificial pond habitats. An ideal water depth is required to support a fish sanctuary, promote algae growth, and for the growth of larger fish. Some clients with expansive land areas even consider the design of large fish habitat structures to support lake habitat goals.

The Three Types of Trophy Tree

There have been several negative reactions to the concept behind a trophy tree. In some circles, where arborists do not organize, there have been cries for more taxes to stop rich people from spending money on “stupid things” such as relocating old trees, using techniques that look similar to tree grafting. However, there are many positive reasons to move trophy trees.

Back in 2014, the University of Michigan re-located a 200-year-old Buff Oak Tree to make from for the Stephen M. Ross School of Business expansion. The towering 65-foot tree was part of a $135 million, donor-funded Ross School project approved by the board at the University. In an NPR report, it was reported the tree weighed 700,000 pounds, and needed to be raised on huge rubber bags so that transporters could be slide underneath.

Living Trees

Living trophy trees have a complicated process. The acquisition process involves slicing the tree vertically into multiple pieces. The tree is then re-assembled by the use of cables and steel rods. Each of the tree segments comes with separate foliage and roots. The bark later grows on each tree segment providing an original look. Acquisition, transportation, and installation costs can range from $25,000 to $250,000 per tree. It means that the total cost is greatly determined by the type of trophy tree a client selects and where it is from. You cannot expect to pay the same amount for a tree from your state transported by a truck as one that was uprooted from a far-off destination or different country and transported by air. 

Artificial Trophy Trees

These trees are constructed by use of customization options and steel inner cores. There are many artificial options such as Palm trees, Birch, Mediterranean Olive, Banyan, and Oak. Assembling takes place at the site, and the result is much similar to a living tree. However, there are specific exceptions, like when creating a tree with specific details or colors. It is expected that the outcome will not be like a living tree. The Sushi samba tree is one example of a trophy tree with details and colors. It is mostly found in restaurants and is a combination of Banyan foliage and Oak barn. In many cases, the complete customization of a trophy tree on a sleek floor display is made with artificial habitats in commercial environments.

Preserved Trophy Trees

Preserved trophy trees are a combination of proprietary organic preservation material and plant material. They are considered to be appealing works of art. They are ideal for both indoor and outdoor purposes.

The Advantages of Trophy Trees

Unique Status Symbol for the Uber Rich

Trophy trees are a status symbol for the rich. They create a unique look around the garden or backyard for any large property. The trees are big and beautiful, which means that they are not common. Also, the fact that not everyone can afford to buy trophy trees raises one’s distinct taste and appreciation for unique natural landscape design and elements. It truly feeds the ego and status of the wealthy.

Distinct, Original Look

Provided you hire a recognized company, once the trees have been installed, they will look like they were always part of your home and property. Great workmanship would make it hard to know if the tree was even transplanted to its new location. All homeowners, not just the wealthy, have a desire to improve their natural landscape environment around their home and property; especially for its therapeutic benefits in a global pandemic.

No Need to Start from Scratch

It would take a very long time to plant a tree and wait for it to grow and reach maturity. Instead, many homeowners and those in the hospitality industry purchase trophy trees from well-known companies to expedite their renovation and development projects. Modern, contemporary architectural projects now consider green space (biophilia) an important aspect of modern design. It also means architects, developers, and home renovators can build a dream home or project and have it surrounded by unique and incredible trees in a few short months.

Preserving Historic Trees

Many people are concerned about cutting down old trees and the unintended environmental impact and consequences. In reality, many trophy trees were likely to be cut down by homeowners or municipalities, so their preservation is welcome by wealthier homeowners. Having a tall tree uprooted and installed in a different location preserves its rich history (origin), beauty, and will inspire the next generation.

Disadvantages of Trophy Trees

Even though a historic tree may beautify any large home or property, there are no guarantees that it will last or survive for many years. Despite spending thousands of dollars and effort to relocate trophy trees, there is always a risk they may fail to thrive. Certain trees may not survive in a new environment for different reasons such as age and type of soil or trophy tree. There may be essential parts or elements in their original location that are required for life and survival. Companies will do their best to transfer a sediment to the new location but if the climate is extremely different, this may not be enough for the trophy trees’ survival.

License and Special Accommodations

There are specific permissions, insurance, and licenses that homeowners should have before any trophy trees are installed on the property. Given their uniqueness and size, trophy trees may also require special transport accommodation. Some regions and municipalities prohibit the transplantation of trophy trees so it is important to research this with the company you hire to do the work. This is important because you are likely to spend thousands of dollars to buy a large trophy tree and must pay almost triple that amount for transport and installation. 

Aftercare Costs

After installation, a trophy tree needs complete and ongoing care because it is a living tree. It requires root maintenance, treatment, and protection against pests, regular watering, and a warm climate (sunshine). If you don’t want to incur these costs, you are better off considering artificial trophy trees as they won’t need the same level of maintenance and care and could last much longer than a real, living trophy tree.

Private Owners May Not Sell

It is a given that not all private homeowners want to sell their trophy trees. Some trophy trees were planted by a loved one, such as a grandmother, and the family members wish to keep them for sentimental reasons and the next generation. It means that exotic tree brokers may have to go to other countries or different states to get a specific type of trophy tree. This type of broad search always leads to higher costs and is really only within reach of wealthy American homeowners.

Key Considerations Before Buying

Environmental Impact

You need to take your time and research to know which type of trophy tree will thrive well in your area. Prior research and knowledge will help you make an informed decision. It will also be easy for you to make your selection from a refined list of trophy trees provided by different companies. They provide options for species type, which considers landscape design flexibility and height to complement your home and property. Not all trophy trees are ideal for all types of properties. Some are recommended for houses, while others are better used for commercial buildings and the hospitality industry.  

Tree Health

Not all companies use the best practices when uprooting and removing live parts of the tree. As well, you will want to do some research about the tree beforehand to ensure they can survive in your area. The tree needs to be in good condition. If you are not comfortable, a specialized tree and landscape company can do this for you at an additional cost.

Choosing the Best Tree Broker

Choosing the right company to handle the acquisition, transportation, and installation process is paramount. Keep in mind that the company you choose will significantly impact the outcome of the project. Here are some key considerations when making your decision.


You need to work with an accredited company that is a member of a tree care industry association. Accreditation means that they have the necessary certifications. It also means that they are capable of delivering worry-free quality services.


A company with experience will have proper knowledge and skills to ensure they meet their clients’ expectations. Experience will give you comfort because you are dealing with the best. Find out how many similar projects they have successfully done to be sure that they can meet your requirements. 

Full Service Experience

It is also wise to work with a company that will work with you from the acquisition stage to final installation including aftercare. They need to have the capability to source any trophy tree from any location worldwide. They should also do so within the agreed deadline and provide evidence of delivering work on time.

Insurance and License

A licensed company is a good signal that they are legitimate and that you can rely on their services. Insurance is also vital as it covers any damages or injuries. A lot can happen during the transportation and installation of trophy trees. Failure to hire an insured company means that you will be liable for all costs in case of any damage.  

All this talk about trophy trees has made us hungry. We love olives so maybe our next midcentury modern or contemporary home will need its own olive tree. 😉

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