If you’ve been reading notesfromthecanopy, you’ve probably guessed by now that we’re a little bit obsessed with trees. So, to proudly flaunt our passion for the mighty trunk, we’ve comprised this special list of the largest, tallest, oldest and most beautiful trees on our planet. The list is not by any means all encompassing; in fact there are many trees which are missing and could be added. So please, if you think we’ve missed a really good one, then let us know and we’ll add it to the list!
General Sherman – California, USA
By volume, General Sherman is the largest living single stem tree on earth. General Sherman is a sequoia tree located in the giant forest of sequoia national park in California. The tree has an estimated volume of 1,487 cubic metres and a mass of 1,121 tons! To put it in perspective, that’s more than 224 elephants. Busting out of the canopy at a height of 83.8 metres, the General is not the tallest, but the largest and probably one of the most famous trees in the world – every year thousands of people come to walk the incredible 31 metres around its base.
Hyperion – Redwood national park, California, USA
The tallest tree on earth (named Hyperion from greek mythology) is a coastal redwood tree (Sequoia sempervirens). Hyperion is 115.72 metres high, which is taller than Big Ben and the statue of liberty. Hyperion was discovered recently, in August 2006. Coastal redwoods are among the largest of tree species; they have a conical crown with horizontal branches and bark which can be up to a foot thick. Like General Sherman, Hyperion has some impressive stats: the tree is 530 cubic metres and approximated to be 700-800 years old. Funnily enough, people said that Hyperion actually should have been taller but a woodpecker stunted its growth.
Eucalyptus regnans – Australia
Eucalyptus regnans, aka “Mountain ash” really take the piss. The tallest specimen ever recorded was 132 metres high… 132! Although traditionally grown in plantations for logging purposes, some of these trees could have been the world’s tallest – if they weren’t meant for logging. Centurion (Tasmania, Australia) for example, still stands at 99.7 metres, making it the tallest known tree of its species. A great thing to note about these trees is that pure forests of Eucalyptus regnans are supposed to store more carbon than any other forest on earth.
The tree of Tule – Oaxaca, Mexico
El Árbol del Tule, which is spanish for ‘the tree of Tule’ is located in the grounds of a church in Mexico. The tree, which casts a gigantic shadow over the holy place, is a Montezuma cypress, meaning old man of the water. It has the thickest trunk of any tree in the world and looks more like a medieval fortress than a tree. Get ready for some ridiculous dimensions:
Circumference (total distance around trunk): 42 metres
Max diameter: 14.02 metres
Height: 34 metres
Volume: 816.8 cubic metres
Weight: 636 tons
The age of del Tule is unknown, although speculations range from 1,200 years all the way up to 6,000 years. The trunk of Tule is so large that originally it was thought to be many trees but DNA testing has proved that del Tule is in fact the fattest tree ever.
Adansonia Grandidieri, Madagascar
Otherwise known as Grandidieri’s Baobab, these enormous Baobab trees are native to Madagascar. You probably recognise this tree from the animated movie where the crazy lemurs party on the beach. The lemurs of Madagascar are quite important to the life cycle of this tree – on their way through the canopy the little lemurs poke their noses into the flowers and get their faces covered in pollen; inadvertently helping out with the pollination cycle of the tree. Grandidieri trees have a wide cylindrical trunk of up to and over 3 metres and can reach a height of 30 metres.
Although Madagascar is one of the more diverse habitats on our planet, these Baobabs are constantly under threat from agricultural encroachment.
The “Prison Tree”, Western Australia
The prison tree (Adansonia Gregorii) is a type of Baobab tree endemic to western Australia. This particular tree has an interesting story. In 1890’s, police officers noticed that the tree was completely hollow on the inside. Because the tree was so wide the officers decided to cut an opening in the tree so it could be used as a temporary lock up for prisoners on their way to court. However, some people believe that there is no real evidence to support these claims, and that the notion that the “prison tree” was used to lock up prisoners is a myth which may have been propounded to influence tourism in the area. No smoke without fire you might say. What about smoke machines?
Note: In order to combat harsh drought conditions, Boababs have developed the ability to store copious amounts of water in their trunk. They can store up to 40% of their weight in water in order to survive the dry seasons.
“The Grandmother” – Amazon, Brazil
The Sumauma trees of the Amazon are considered by many to be the largest trees on the planet. One of which, Granny Samauma (located in the forest of Tapajos in Para State Brazil), is estimated to be between 900 and 1000 years old. The tribal people of the Amazon tell that Sumauma is a link between humans and the divine. The legend also tells of Curupira – a dark forest spirit who protects the forest and resides near Sumama trees. Curupira takes on the form of a little boy and if one is not prepared – or has bad intentions – Curupira uses his backward feet to make footprints that lead back to its starting point thus confusing its victims. Curupira will prey on people who take more than they need from the forest, namely hunters, poachers and developers.
Sadly Curupira can only do so much; the forerunners of the dairy and beef industry are systematically cutting these beautiful giants, often illegally or ‘accidentally’, make space for cattle to graze.
The current age record for an individual tree is held by the great bristlecone pine (Pinus Longaeva), located in Nevada USA. At a staggering 5062 years old, it is the oldest non clonal tree on earth. The leaves of this tree show the longest persistence of any plant – some staying bright green for up to 45 years.
However, clonal trees can survive far, far longer…
A clonal tree is a group of genetically identical trees which originate from a common ancestor. Colonies of clonal trees are built from wide ranging roots which constantly send up new shoots. Similarly, some vines and species of trees, such as the Banyan, have branched tendrils which plunge down into the soil forming new trunks and root systems. This allows them to spread and proliferate long after their predecessors have died out.
Old Tjikko – Sweden
Carbon dated at 9,558 years old, Tjikko, is one of the oldest clonal trees in the world. Old Tjikko is a Norway spruce tree which has survived for so long because it has been able to clone itself, regenerating new trunks, branches and roots again and again. As the single last survivor of its colony, Old Tjikko is the third oldest tree on the planet.
Pando, The Trembling Giant – Utah, USA
Officially the oldest clonal tree on earth, this group of 47,000 aspen trees steal the show with a stupendous 80,000 years of age. It is believed that Pando is dying due to drought and disease, although efforts are being made to save it. Pando covers 106 acres of forest and weighs in at 6000 metric tons (6 million kilograms) which would make it the largest and heaviest organism in the world if it weren’t for this tasty fungus, which is 3.8 kilometres across… Sorry Pando.
Angel Oak – South Carolina, USA
Not much needs to be said about this one, the Angel Oak, it’s just stunning. The Angel Oak spreads so wide that it’s shade covers an area of 1,600 square metres and the longest length of its branches, from tip to tip, is 57 metres.
We hope you enjoyed the list and please get in touch and help us to add to it!