7/06/2011

Douglas-fir: Tallest Tree In The World?

Hyperion, Coast Redwood: tallest known living tree, M. Vaden
The heights of the tallest trees in the world, presently and historically, have been hotly contested ever since people started estimating and measuring the tallest living things. In the pursuit of records tree heights have been exaggerated - tall tales, mythical and legendary stories emerge from the great forests. So what are the tallest trees on the planet?

The Current Top Three Tallest Trees On Earth

The following are now accepted as the top three tallest measured species (currently standing specimens):
  1. Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens): 115.56 m (379.1 ft), Redwood National Park, California, United States
  2. Australian Mountain-ash (Eucalyptus regnans): 99.6 m (327 ft), south of Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
  3. Coast Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii): 99.4 m (326 ft), Brummit Creek, Coos County, Oregon, United States - from Wikipedia

Climbers in the Brummit Fir, world's tallest Douglas-fir, described by some as 335 feet tall, which would make it the second tallest known tree, not the third

How Tall Can Douglas-fir Get?

Although a Coast redwood is presently the tallest tree found to date, there is evidence that the coastal Douglas-fir has the biological capacity to surpass the redwoods in stratospheric height. Once trees reach the limit beyond which water can no longer be pumped to the top, the leader experiences 'drought stress' and dies off.
"In 2008, a study proposed that the maximum height for a Doug­las fir -- one of the world's tallest trees -- is about 453 feet (138 meters)." [source]
A Douglas-fir is the third tallest tree in the world (or second, depending on other accounts), and some believe a Douglas-fir could be, or once was, the tallest. Upper height limit estimates for the species go as high as 476 ft, and before logging began in the 19th and 20th centuries, plus 400 foot trees were probably fairly common.

Historical Accounts Of 400 Foot Douglas-fir

Some accounts of the tallest of the tall may be loggers' tales, but others are documented measurements.

In a post I did here I discussed 400 ft plus Douglas-fir trees. An informed reader posted a couple of comments in response. They contain information regarding the historical heights once attained by the king of the Pacific Coast Forest, the Douglas-fir.

See comments below photo.

Industrial logging has removed most of the tallest Douglas-fir, historical photo, Washington

Reader Comments Regarding Tall Douglas-fir

"A Douglas fir measured 415 feet high, (127 meters) in 1902 at the Alfred John Nye property in Lynn Valley. Diameter was 14 ft 3 inches 5 feet from the ground.


A 352 footer was felled in 1907 in Lynn Valley. Diameter was 10 feet.


In 1897 a 465 foot (142 m) Douglas fir was felled in Whatcom, Washington on the Alfred Loop ranch near MT. Baker. Diameter was 11 feet, and 220 feet to first branch. Board footage was 96,345 feet of top quality lumber.


A 400 footer was felled in 1896 at Kerrisdale, BC, sent to Hastings mill. J. M. Fromme measured the giant at 13 ft 8 in diameter.


Records of even taller fir trees exist, but I am in the process of collecting a complete and up to date list of old champions long forgotten."

And a follow-up comment:

"They measured a Redwood tree near the Oregon border in 2006, it is 115.6 m tall above average ground level, but to the lowest end of the trunk it's about 117.6 m total height.


Michael Taylor, Chris Atkins, and Mario Vaden, are the top guys searching the forests for new tallest tree species. They just located last week a new record Douglas fir west of Roseberg, Oregon it is 98.3 meters tall, live growing top. They're hoping to find a monster fir over 100 meters, and I think they will. Thousands of hectares of Oregon forest is relatively unexplored.


But sadly, over 90% of the really big old growth has been cut down in the North West, so finding a 120 meter fir is unlikely -- Not impossible though.


I posted the list in a wikipedia talk section, titled, "Historically Reported Douglas-Fir Exceeding 300 and 400 Feet." I also made a couple experimental Youtube videos dealing with the super tall reports, the 400 foot and up class." 

Is it possible that the Coast redwood is not the tallest tree species on earth?

15 comments:

  1. Anonymous6/7/11

    Cool post man. I think it's a close match between Redwood and Douglas fir.

    Hard to say which one was the all time tall tree champ.

    The Redwoods are undoubtedly masters of girth, and volume. The Douglas fir is a great deal skinnier, but as the 2008 study you mentioned indicates, may have the capacity to reach 25 to 50 feet above the Redwoods estimated max height, which is 427 feet.

    Last year I did find a news report of a 424 foot Redwood which was logged at Elk River, in 1886. Other reports of 400 footers could probably be located. But I think the Douglas fir at 465' in Whatcom has to be a real unmatched record.

    I emailed the current owner of the old Loop ranch a week ago, and he confirmed the story and even said the stump might be there. He might send me a photo of it. A columnist from the Seattle Times contacted me and he might go up to Maple Falls and check it out.

    Cheers,
    Jim

    ReplyDelete
  2. Jim,

    A 465 foot (141.73 meter) tall tree is an amazing thing.

    Although the redwoods are massive volume-wise, there is a Douglas-fir represented on the Top Ten Largest Trees list:

    The top ten species measured so far are*:

    1. Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum): 1,487 m³ (52,508 cu ft), General Sherman
    2. Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens): 1,203 m³ (42,500 cu ft), Lost Monarch
    3. Montezuma Cypress (Taxodium mucronatum): 750 m³ (25,000 cu ft), Árbol del Tule
    4. Western Redcedar (Thuja plicata): 500 m³ (17,650 cu ft ), Quinault Lake Redcedar
    5. Tasmanian Blue Gum (Eucalyptus globulus): 368 m³ (13,000 cu ft), Rullah Longatyle (Strong Girl, also Grieving Giant)
    6. Australian Mountain-ash (Eucalyptus regnans): 360 m³ (12,714 cu ft), Arve Big Tree

    7. Coast Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) 349 m³ (12,320 cu ft) Red Creek Tree

    8. Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis) 337 m³ (11,920 cu ft) Queets Spruce
    9. Australian Oak (Eucalyptus obliqua): 337 m³ (11,920 cu ft) Gothmog
    10. Alpine Ash (Eucalyptus delegatensis): 286 m³ (10,100 cu ft), located in Styx River Valley

    I have visited the Red Creek Fir and it is an amazingly large tree. There are several giant trees in the vicinity, including Canada's largest Western red-cedar, and sitka spruce, as well as the tallest spruce.

    Who knows what other record-breakers grow undiscovered in the remaining old growth?

    Thanks again for the information. It would be interesting to hear about the Maple Falls trip. A tree's headstone is its stump, and is worthy of a pilgrimage.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Anonymous6/7/11

    "Who knows what other record-breakers grow undiscovered in the remaining old growth?"

    Yeah, I know man. It seems like there are only a few, maybe like half a dozen committed big tree hunters in all of the West coast actually going out into the forest and mapping these big trees and keeping a record of them. 6 or 8 guys simply have no way of finding all the biggest trees in the North West, never mind the world.

    LiDAR mapping has helped considerably in finding tall trees in selected areas of the Redwoods, because it can measure the height of a tree to its top, but it is expensive and prone to have errors. Trees of enormous girth, and extreme age remain hidden.

    I'll let you know if any info comes from Maple Falls.

    Jim

    ReplyDelete
  4. Anonymous14/7/11

    I was reading about the Brummitt fir in Coos County Oregon in Dr. Carder's and Van Pelt's books.

    Apparently When it was discovered in 1989, it had a healthy top and measured at 329 feet (100.3 meters) tall. But this measurement is actually sort of an average estimation. The trunk actually is situated on a steep hill. Atop the hill it measures 319 ft, but at the bottom measures 339 ft, So I think this tree was therefore almost 340 feet (103.6 m) tall overall. It has since lost 3 feet of height, and the top 50 feet is dead. I think 335 feet is a more accurate reading.

    I haven't heard back yet from the Seattle Times reporter on the Whatcom tree. But I've been doing some more research in that vicinity, and it turns out plenty of other huge 300 foot plus trees were felled in that county. Near the town of Alger fir trees 12 to 15 feet thick scaling up to 105,000 board feet and 700 years old were logged, as well as near Lake Whatcom. You just don't find fir trees like this anymore.

    Jim

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hey Jim,

    Thanks for sharing the awesome information... again. Amazing that some of these trees made it through 150 years of unrelenting exploitation.

    I have read Carder, and Van Pelt, and feel fortunate to have come across their work, and their fascinating books. Van Pelt's hyper-accurate tree drawings/renderings blow me away.

    Randy Stoltmann was a passionate big tree enthusiast here in British Columbia. He wrote "Hiking Guide To The Big Trees Of Southwestern British Columbia", and found many of the biggest trees on our Provincial Big Tree Registry. Randy unfortunately passed away in an accident in 1994.

    What amazing trees in Whatcom County. Would have loved to see them.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Jim AKA Micah5/9/11

    Howdy,
    The Seattle Times is running a story on that giant tree in Whatcom County.

    http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/restlessnative/2016112972_restless05m.html


    Cheers.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Micah,

    Thank you for keeping us up to date. Excellent article.

    Pacific Northwest - former home of the world's tallest trees.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hello,

    I come from Slovenia, Europe. I study forestry and I am particulary interested in remarkable trees in our region. Here, our largest trees are far more "humble" as yours: the tallest tree in my country is 62,5 meter high Norway spruce (Picea abies); I heard that tallest trees in Europe are (informally) some Abies alba trees in virgin forest Peručica in Bosnia: about 75 m!

    Good bye

    John

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ulmus glabra,

      A 62,5 meter Norway spruce is nothing to shake a stick at, and a 75 meter Abies alba? Wow!

      Abies grandis is one of our very tall trees, up to 90 meters in exceptional cases.

      Do you have any tree photos from your country you would like to share?

      Delete
  9. Samuel Bednarski24/5/12

    I just found an enormous western red cedar at Goldstream Provincial Park that I roughly measured at 72 metres tall!

    Sam

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Goldstream has some beautiful, old trees, including many huge cedars.

      72 metres is a very tall tree, and only a few minutes from Victoria.

      Thanks for sharing, Samuel. We would be very interested to hear about your further big tree finds.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous28/5/12

      A few hundred metres south of where the Trans-Canada Highway meets Finlayson Arm Road (in Goldstream), there is a grove of trees, on the east side of the road, that I have not measured and are about 80 metres tall.

      A beautiful black cottonwood in the middle of relatively little Konuckson Park is about 220 cm wide and 42 metres tall. Not many people seem to care about the hardwood giants around here.
      A grove of black cottonwoods in a seasonal swamp in NE Mount Douglas Park is very pretty-their crowns are truly enormous.
      But since it is a seasonal swamp, and I was there in the swampy season, I did not get o measure these trees, but got swamped trying to.

      Sam

      Delete
  10. Anonymous27/3/13

    At Puntledge River, in the part in Strathcona Park, available on map at around 49° 29.5' N, -125° 19.9' W, there are reputed to be 93 metre douglas-firs on the north bank. Must explore soon...

    Sam

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Sam, Thanks again for sharing your extensive knowledge about our local trees. I really appreciate the information, which makes me drool for a big tree road trip.

      So many beautiful places, so little time...

      Hope you are getting out into the old growth, my friend.

      Cheers

      Gregg Koep

      Delete
  11. Have you been to the red creek fir on vancouver island at port renfrew?

    ReplyDelete

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