This is overall description of world's most interesting trees but Wondermondo can offer a lot more than this:

  • List of described trees - list and map of trees described in Wondermondo. Table is sortable by the parameters of trees.
  • Stoutest trees of the world - unique list of world's stoutest trees (by species). Circumference of trees in this list exceeds 14 m and currently there are listed more than 50 species!
  • Tallest trees of the world - unique list of world's tallest trees (by species). Height of these trees exceeds 80 m and currently it includes more than 15 species.

Map of described trees

General description

This category includes the largest and most unusual trees of the world.

Criteria

Trees for most part are perennial woody plants who have one main trunk and considerable size. There is no minimum size for a tree agreed and imagination is applied to some degree when distinguishing between shrubs and trees.

 

Largest trees - species

Out of 10 existing plant divisions six include trees.

Total number of tree species in the world still is a wild guess - may be 10,000 and may be 100,000 but most likely somewhere in between. Every month there are reported new tree species from the whole world, including the Western Europe.

The largest trees belong to a comparatively small division - conifers (Pinophyta). Approximately half of the large and outstanding trees listed here are conifers. Conifers are the highest, largest and oldest trees in the world, conifer is also the second stoutest tree in the world.

Most impressive conifers and trees in general are two species of subfamily Sequoioideae belonging to Cupress family (Cupressaceae): giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum (Lindl.) J.Buchh.) and coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens (D. Don) Endl.).

Both trees grow along the western coast of United States. Giant sequoia is the largest tree on Earth by volume, fifth largest by the height and third stoutest. Coast redwood is second largest by the volume, the highest tree on Earth and fourth stoutest.

Several more conifers have exceptional size - such as Montezuma cypress (Taxodium mucronatum Ten., 1853) - third largest by the volume and second stoutest in the world, also coast Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii (Mirb.) Franco) - seventh largest by the volume, third tallest and 45th stoutest.

Arve Big Tree, Tasmania
Second largest eucalypt - Arve Big Tree, Australia.
puzzlement, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Next group of exceptionally large trees belongs to flower plants - these are eucalypts (Eucalyptus) belonging to myrtle family (Myrtaceae). Out of more than 700 species in this genus five exceed height of 85 metres, five exceed trunk volume of 200 m3 and eight exceed girth of 14 metres.

Stoutest tree of the world most likely is balete tree (Ficus balete Merr. or Ficus benjamina).

It seems that there is not a very high probability that some other species of trees can take over the record for volume, height or stoutness. But further investigations can change the list of the ten largest trees in each category significantly.

 

Largest trees - locations

Chandelier Tree, California
Chandelier Tree, California. Photo: Bobak Ha'Eri, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA-2.5.

Nowadays there are two regions in the world with pronounced tree gigantism - coastal California, Washington and Oregon (United States) and Tasmania (Australia).

Out of ten records regarding the trunk volume, height and stoutness in California, Washington and Oregon there are registered 9 records and in Tasmania - 8. This can be explained by the fact that both these regions of world really have giant trees and these magnificent monuments of nature have rised large interest. Many enthusiasts have searched champion trees in these regions and performed exact measurements to prove their findings.

Other champion trees are located in diverse regions of the world - Madagascar, South Africa, Mexico, and so forth.

Author recognises that lists here are far from being complete and here might be missing numerous great trees already well known in their respective localities.

 

Some notes on measurements and records

Age
Grove of very old Great Basin bristlecone pines, California
Grove of very old Great Basin bristlecone pines, California.
Anauxite, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

I am glad to announce that trees increasingly rare are "measured" by their imaginary age. It was not that long ago that tourist booklets announced that some tree is that and that many thousand years old and local people were virtually ready to fight to prove that their oak or cypress is exactly that old. Scientific justification? None! Just hundreds of tourist booklets and even some people with scientific degree repeating this mysterious figure once and again.

Happily more and more people realise that the size of the tree tells little about its age. Nowadays naming such imaginary age of the tree is rather a sign of provinciality.

In practice the age of the tree can be determined just in some cases, when the tree rings are well visible and the core of the tree is not hollowed, or when the date of tree planting is known with confidence.

Nowadays more and more attention is turned to measurable values - volume of trunk, height, diameter, girth (also going out of trend), crown projection.

Also here mistakes and uncertainties are common.

Girth and diameter

Very often the girth is mingled with the diameter in favour of "increasing" the tree. Very often the tree is measured at soil level - of course, thus getting pretty impressive number. In such cases the height of measurement is not mentioned - thus, if you hear about English oak with 25 metres girth without further explanations - most likely it is measured at soil level and has a girth of some 9 - 10 metres at 1.3 metre height.

Measurement should be made at the narrowest place between the soil and 1.3 - 1.4 metres height, athwart to the tree stem. If the tree stands on slope - measurement is made uphill.

Large trees often have large buttresses and then a girth includes lots of empty air, not tree. Due to this more correct figure is medium diameter of the tree. Of course, it takes some effort to calculate it.

Height

Height of the trees is hard to measure. For most part it is done by climbing the tree and measuring it. Being at shaky summit of giant tree at the height of 20-floor building is not for everyone - in fact very few in the world do this. Often the last metres of summit are not measured - it is too risky - and are not included in the height of tree.

Another approach is using modern remote sensing technologies, such as LIDAR. Thus, for example, second tallest known species of trees in world - mountain ash or swamp gum named Centurion in Tasmania - was found and measured. This tree is 99.8 metres high - second highest tree species in the world.

We can be sure that there are numerous very high trees in the world waiting to be discovered. Very tall trees grow in ravines and deep valleys, well protected from winds. Thus several tree enthusiasts from Alaska Pacific University found 8 species of trees exceeding 80 metre height in an area of 2 km2 in Sarawak, Malaysia in January - February 2007.

Volume

Volume seems to be the best value to measure the size of a tree. But it pretty hard to calculate and there is a lot of ways to do it wrong. The volume of the main trunk is measured and compared most often.

Great Banyan, India
Great Banyan, India. Main trunk has died but thousands of aerial roots remain.
murky / Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

To do this there is determined diameter of the tree at different heights, height of the tree and then calculated the volume. Roots and branches are not included, hollows are included.

This is fairly easy to do for many conifers who have one top. Measuring the volume for many other trees which have complex canopy might be too hard.

 

Giant trees of the past

Over the last centuries people have been eager to cut forest and especially - large trees. None has doubts that in this way there have been lost many largest trees of the world. Unfortunately even at the beginning of 20th century these measurements in most cases were of dubious quality and most of data are not trustable.

Below are listed some of the interesting and large trees from the recent past. Don't trust too much some of the figures:

  • Lindsey creek tree is the largest known single organism in world. This coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens (D. Don) Endl.) was uprooted by a storm in 1905. Trunk volume of this tree was at least 2,550 m3.
  • Enormous coast Douglas fir in 1900, Washington
    Enormous coast Douglas fir in 1900, Washington. 9 feet diameter.
    From brochure "Seattle and the Orient"
    A Coast Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii var. menziesii (Mirb.) Franco) cut down in 1897 at Loop's Ranch, Washington (United States) was reported to have measured 142 m in height.
  • The Fergusson Tree (Eucalyptus regnans F.Muell.) in Victoria, Australia was 132.6 m high. It was cut down in 1871 or 1872. It is possible that the measurement was not exact. Exactly measured maximumt height for eucalypts is 114.3 m (Cornthwaite Tree, Victoria, Australia). Unfortunately this tree was also felled in 1881.
  • God's Valley Spruce (Oregon, United States) had enormous trunk - its diametre was 7.32 m.
  • There are pictures of western red cedar (Thuja plicata Donn ex D.Don) with a diameter up to 6.71 m.
  • Charles Darwin reports that he found a specimen of alerce Fitzroya cupressoides (I.M.Johnst.) in Chile with a diameter 12.6 m (circumference circa 39.6 m). This is unusual as the largest specimens of this beautiful tree are much smaller nowadays - it seems possible that here is confused girth and diameter. But there has been proven that Fitzroya can live up to 3,622 years long making it the second oldest tree species.
  • Chestnut Tree of One Hundred Horses, Sicily
    Chestnut Tree of One Hundred Horses, Sicily.
    Chestnut Tree of One Hundred Horses - Sicily, Italy. Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa Mill.). Once the stoutest tree in world - in 1780 measured circumference was 57.9 m. Now split in three stems, still growing. Considered to be 2,000 - 4,000 years old.
  • L'Arbre du Ténéré in 1939, Niger
    L'Arbre du Ténéré in 1939, Niger. Once the loneliest tree in the world.
    L'Arbre du Ténéré once was the loneliest and most isolated tree in the world. This Acacia sp. was located in north-east Niger and there was no other tree closer than 200 kilometres from it. Tree died in 1973.

Outstanding trees

Here are selected some of the most impressive and interesting separate trees of the the world. Circumference and diameter, if not stated otherwise, is measured at the narrowest place of trunk up to the 1.3 - 1.4 m height.

Africa

Drago Milenario, Tenerife
Drago Milenario, Tenerife.
Daniel Muñoz, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Asia

Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, Sri Lanka
Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi, Sri Lanka.
William Pfeifer, Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Australia and Oceania

Tasmania
Arve Big Tree, Tasmania, Australia
Arve Big Tree, Tasmania, Australia.
TTaylor, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA-3.0
Red tingle with 22.3 metre circumference, Western Australia
Red tingle with 22.3 metre circumference, Western Australia.
Amanda Slater, Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
Other parts of Australia
Other countries of Oceania
Tāne Mahuta, Northland, New Zealand
Largest kauri - Tāne Mahuta, Northland, New Zealand.
Phillip Capper, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Europe

North America

California
Giant sequoia General Grant, California
Giant sequoia - General Grant Tree, California, United States. Photo by Miguel Vieira, Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
Other states of United States
Doerner Fir, Oregon, United States
Doerner Fir in United States, Oregon.
US Bureau of Land Management, public domain.
Tule Tree, Oaxaca, Mexico
Tule Tree, Oaxaca, Mexico.
Gengiskanhg, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA-3.0
Other countries of North America

South America

Highest palms in the world in Cocora Valley, Colombia
Highest palms in the world in Cocora Valley, Colombia. Photo by Diego Andrés Alvarez Marín, Wikimedia Commons. CC-BY-SA-3.0

Creative Commons Non-Commercial Share Alike 3.0 4 May 2010 Gatis Pāvils

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