Conservationists are calling for important trees like the thousand-year-old Darley Oak in Cornwall to be listed on a national register.
Under current rules, ancient woodland and veteran trees must be protected and an inventory is kept for the benefit of planners.
The Woodland Trust is calling for a national register to classify, celebrate and protect significant UK trees.
They say a dedicated register along the lines of Listed Buildings would boost protection by enabling developers to locate special examples when preparing planning applications.
It could also help owners to access support such as specialist advice and grants to help with conservation.
Jill Butler, ancient tree specialist at the Woodland Trust, said it would look after tree such as the Darley oak, a 1000-year-old tree on the edge of Bodmin Moor, the source of many myths and legends.
“No systematic approach to identify and formally register important trees in the UK has ever been undertaken, and many of our nationally important trees go unnoticed and are unprotected,” he added.
“Our campaign is a call to create a formal register which would consist of trees that meet an agreed set of criteria, recognising their historical, ecological and cultural value.
“Once lost, we cannot resurrect these trees like manmade objects but so much depends on their survival – they are part of our history, our culture, and are vital for a whole variety of wildlife. Hundreds of specialist species from fungi to invertebrates and lichens can only survive in old trees.”
Supporters are asked to back the campaign via the Woodland Trust website at www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/vitrees