Centurion – the tallest eucalyptus tree

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The tallest eucalyptus tree – Centurion – was found from an airplane, by using LiDAR equipment. Thanks to this tree Eucalyptus regnans now is the third tallest tree species in the world.

Forests in Tasmania contain some of the highest, mightiest and also oldest trees of the world.

History of discovery

As nearly any state-owned forestry in the world, Forestry Tasmania has to combine two roles: to act as a protector of the forest and to get profit out of the forest. It has been stated that any tree in Tasmanian state forest exceeding the fantastic 85-meter height and/ or 280 cubic meters of volume should be registered and protected (5).

In August 2008 Forestry Tasmania staff were using their state-of-the-art airborne equipment for the mapping and assessment of the values of commercial forest in the Arve River basin. This was a comparatively early use of LiDAR laser equipment (light detection and ranging) which now is extensively used for 3D mapping of the land surface. When mapping a forest, LiDAR shows both the surface of trees and land level thus helping to assess the amount of wood in between.

Later, when looking through the data collected by LiDAR, employees Mayo Kajitani and David Mannes noticed two previously unknown very tall trees standing close together – both exceeding 85 meters height and one being even some 99 meters high. As LiDAR tends to underestimate tree height, foresters thought that the tree might be even 101 meters high.

One more species of tree exceeding 100 metre height?

This was a sensation: nowadays only coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens (D. Don) Endl.) in California and yellow meranti in Sabah (Malaysia) (discovered in 2019) exceed 100-meter height. One more tree species – coast Douglas fir has a very similar height – 99.75 m.

Shortly afterward both trees were inspected from the ground with another kind of laser equipment. Top of the highest tree was hidden in the canopy and there were possible only approximate measurements. It was assumed that the tree is at least 101 meters high. Age was assessed to be some 400 years (4) and diameter was measured to be 4.05 meters (5).

Of course, the tree was one of the eucalypts – swamp gum (Eucalyptus regnans).

Genus of eucalypts include approximately 700 species and eucalypts belong to the largest trees of planet in any respect – girth of largest trees might exceed 20 metres and the volume of trunk – 350 m3.

David Mannes later in an interview told that he was saving a name “Centurion” for the 100th giant tree of Tasmania but he never expected that the hundredth tree would also exceed 100 meters height. This name has a root "centum" meaning in Latin "hundred".

The other giant tree also is swamp gum. It was named Triarius, its height was comparatively easy to measure from the ground – 86.5 metres. The diameter of the trunk – impressive 3.90 m (1).

Before this discovery, the highest tree in Australia was another swamp gum of Tasmania named “Icarus Dream” and with measured height 97 meters.

There are many reports of taller eucalypts from earlier times in Victoria, some claiming heights exceeding 150 meters but most of these reports are not credible enough. Still, it is considered that eucalypts theoretically can exceed even 110-meter height. Maximum historical heights of trees in Tasmania are less impressive with two blue gums (E.globulus) having 101 meters height as measured in 1906.

Troubled forest

Discovered forest giants were located in non-protected state forest but immediately were included in the list of protected trees.

This is a lucky coincidence that Centurion has survived. Wildfires in 1934 spared just a few older trees in this area and passed on the west side. In 1950 there was logging nearby and at that time this giant tree would not be spared. In 1966 and 1967 the forest close nearby was deliberately burned for later regeneration, in 1967 this turned into furious, devastating fires. This time fire passed the tree on the east side (5).

These fires were a reason why the forest around the giants was not old-growth and thus – not protected. It was not expected to find any tall trees in this area.

Unfortunately, the beautiful forest has been cut close to the tree – there is a clearcut some 200 m from the Centurion.

100 metres achieved?

Later more exact measurements were made by tree climbers Greenwood and Mifsud (1). This brought some disappointment. The tree turned out to be below the 100-meter height: 99.6 meters. Tree climbers thus gave another name to tree – “the Bradman” as 99.6 meters is a similar length to the test run average of legendary Australian cricketer Donald Bradman (2). Later measurements slightly increased the height of the tree – 99.8 m and in 2016 again a bit less – 99.67 m. Then in March 2017, the next measurement gave a height of 99.82 m (8).

Tree climbers also reported that crown is healthy and is resprouting from the broken top, thus some time ago it was some 103 meters high.

One more measurement in December 2018 gave a result of 100.5 – but as this measurement is made with a laser, it needs to be confirmed by tape measurement – let’s wait for news!!!

Centurion is included in the following list:

Map of tallest trees in the world
Map of tallest trees in the world

References

  1. Giant Trees. Tasmania’s world class giants.
  2. New series of Going Bush screens Sundays at 5.30pm Forestry Tasmania. Accessed 03.01.10.
  3. The world’s tallest hardwood tree. Australian Forest Grower, winter 2009. Accessed 03.01.10.
  4. Technology aids in record-breaking tree discovery. International Forest Industries, August 2009. Accessed 03.01.10.
  5. Welcome to the Centurion! Forestry Tasmania, 10 Oct 2008. Accessed 03.01.10.
  6. New series of Going Bush screens Sundays at 5.30pm Forestry Tasmania. Accessed 03.01.10.
  7. Facebook report from The Tree Projects, 10.12.2018. Accessed 09.05.19.
  8. Australia’s Champion Trees, National Register of Big Trees. Accessed on 4th July 2019.

Centurion on the map

Location, GPS coordinates:43.07729 S 146.76874 E
Categories:Trees, Biological extremes
Values:Biology
Rating:4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)
Where is located?Australia and Oceania, Australia, Tasmania, west from Geeveston, 4 km northeast of the Tahune Airwalk
Alternate name:The Bradman
Species:Mountain ash or swamp gum (Eucalyptus regnans F.Muell.)
Height:99.82 m
Circumference:13.7 m
Diameter:4.05 m
Volume:268 m3

Video of Centurion



Jack Krajcinger, August 2017

Landmarks of Australia

Uluru, Australia
Uluru / Nathan Siemers, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Australia covers the smallest continent of the world and islands around this continent. The enormous and diverse area of Australia contains countless amazing and unique monuments. Parts of the country have not been thoroughly investigated and sometimes there are reported new, surprising finds.

Trees

Arve Big Tree, Tasmania, Australia
Arve Big Tree, Tasmania, Australia (now dead) / TTaylor, Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0
Category includes some of the most impressive and interesting separate trees of the the world. 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.

Recommended books

Eucalypt Ecology: Individuals to Ecosystems

Eucalypts make up a remarkable genus as the dominant trees of Australia. This authoritative volume provides current reviews by active researchers in many disciplines, including evolutionary history, genetics, distribution and modeling, the relationship of eucalypts to fire and nutrients, ecophysiology, pollination and reproductive ecology, interactions between eucalypts and other coexisting biotas as well as conservation and management.

In Tasmania

The settlement of Tasmania by Europeans began two hundred years ago. Nicholas Shakespeare first went there, having heard of the island’s exceptional beauty, because it was famously remote. He soon decided that this was where he wanted to live. Only later did he discover a cache of letters written by an ancestor as corrupt as he was colorful: Anthony Fenn Kemp, the so-called Father of Tasmania.

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