Currency Creek Arboretum
Ever since seeing the inspiring red tingle (Eucalyptus
) trees in the far south-west of Western Australia as
an eight-year old, I have been fascinated by the biggest and
tallest trees of different species. And like all eucalypt-obsessed
Australians (I assume there are many!), I like to claim that the
tallest tree ever was a 130+ metre mountain ash (E.
) felled in Victoria sometime in the 1800s, even if the
actual evidence for such a giant is scant.
But even if the tallest contemporary tree species is a non-eucalypt
- the redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens
; a non-flowering
softwood up to 115 m tall) of the west coast of North America, we
gum nuts can still brag about having the tallest
‘hardwood’ species, the tallest ‘flowering
plant’, and the tallest tree in Australia (all applicable to
the 99 m “Centurion" E. regnans
in Tasmania - visit
Tasmania's giant tree
). But that’s not enough for me…
While visiting my partner Annett in Germany in November 2010, I
thought we should take the opportunity to see some eucalypts in
southern Europe. There are ample data on big
(‘big’ being variously defined) but few data on
trees. Web-based searching led me to the web
pages of Gustavo Iglesias (Eucalyptologics & GIT
), where two potentially tall trees were highlighted
– the ‘Grandfather Tree’ in Spain and the
‘Karri Knight’ in Portugal. What followed was a
rapid-fire five day field trip with Gustavo, chasing eucalypts
along the Atlantic coast of these two countries.
The five days with Gustavo were at times chaotic (in a Spanish sort
of way!) but highly productive. We recorded over 40 different
eucalypt species, including a number of species which are either
naturally rare or poorly known in cultivation in Australia. But the
highlights were the tall eucalypts (see Table 1
1) The opportunistic find (following on from earlier
research by Gustavo) of a massive E. regnans (mountain
ash) in Portugal measuring about 65 metres tall and 2.66 metres
diameter at breast height;
2) Stands of E. globulus (Tasmanian blue gum) near Viveiro
in Spain with trees at least 68 metres tall, and including the
3) The Vale de Canas (near Coimbra in Portugal) where, despite
being devastated by fire a couple of years ago, there were several
eucalypt species greater than 65 metres tall, including the
‘Karri Knight’, a lone Eucalyptus diversicolor
(karri) in a forest of other eucalypt species.
Using a laser hypsometer, we made about 50 measurements of the
‘Karri Knight’, using different methods and from
different positions. A height of 72 metres (accurate to within 0.5
m) was established, making this tree the tallest measured tree in
Europe west of the Caucasus Mountains.
Interestingly, immediately adjacent to the Karri Knight was a
planted Araucaria bidwillii (Bunya pine), with a height of
50 metres, making it taller than any measured indigenous Bunya
pines from Queensland, Australia.
So it now appears that the tallest measured tree in each of
Australia, Europe and Africa are eucalypts (and each a different
species – E. regnans, E. diversicolor and
E. saligna respectively; see Table 2).
Tall-tree height data are virtually unknown in South America, and
are poorly verified in Asia proper (see Table 3), so
it remains to be seen if we can add eucalypts as tallest trees for
these continents also.
On a more local level, a National Register of Big Trees in
Australia has recently been established by Derek McIntosh of Sydney
(see http://nationalregisterofbigtrees.com.au/). While this
web-based database aims to document ‘big’ rather than
tall trees, many of Australia’s tallest trees can be found
listed on the database. With the aid of the laser hypsometer that
Derek has kindly lent me, I have nominated and measured many big
and tall trees; however, as the project is in its infancy, there is
still a paucity of data in many regions and for many species. In
particular, there are very few data on tall trees in Queensland and
the Northern Territory (see Table 2).
I would be most pleased to receive any nominations of potentially
big or tall trees (for any species), which I would endeavour to
measure and document, with due acknowledgement to the nominator. If
you know of a tree that potentially is taller than those listed in
Tables 2 and 3, drop me an
email at email@example.com.
Images, from top to bottom:
1. The white-trunked tree at the Vale de Cana near Coimbra in
Portugal is the tallest measured tree in Europe – a
Eucalyptus diversicolor (karri) known as “Karri
Knight”, with a height of 72 metres measured using a laser
hypsometre. Immediately adjacent is a tall Araucaria
bidwillii (Bunya pine) with a height of 50 metres. Surrounding
these trees are other tall specimens of E. viminalis,
E. globulus, E. obliqua and E. regnans,
representatives of each measuring over 60 metres tall. All these
species are naturally indigenous to Australia.
2. The measurement team are (left to right) Paulo Ferreira
(University of Coimbra), Gustavo Iglesias (GIT Forestry), Dean
Nicolle, Annett Börner (Max Plank Institute for
Biogeochemistry), Yolanda Fernandez (Ence) and Miguel Cogolludo
3. Our Spanish Eucalyptologist (gum nut) colleague and local guide
Gustavo Iglesias relaxes at the base of the 72 m tall karri
(tallest measured tree in Europe). The small diameter of the tree
relative to its height, is indicative of its relative youth (about
120 years old).
4. Dean Nicolle and Gustavo Iglesias identify other potentially
tall trees in the Vale de Cana near Coimbra in Portugal.
5. Annett Börner appears gnome-like when standing between the
“King Regnans” and twin redwoods at Bussaco, near Luso
in Portugal. The “King Regnans”, a Eucalyptus
regnans named as such following its serendipitous discovery by
Gustavo Iglesias on this field trip, is 64.5 (+/- 1) metres tall ,
while the tallest of the twin redwoods in the background (also
exotic to the region) is 52 metres tall.
6. Dean Nicolle and Annett Börner measure the diameter of the
“King Regnans”. Diameter at breast height is 2.66 m.
This tree had the greatest diameter of the eucalypts we measured in
Spain and Portugal. Note the autumnal oak leaves littering the
ground at the base of the tree.
7. Annett Börner stands next to twin Eucalyptus
cornuta (yate) trees on the Vilagarcia foreshore in Spain.
(Height, 31.5 metres; diameter at breast height, 1.24 metres.) This
species is native to south-western Western Australia, where it
rarely reaches such proportions. This public park also contained a
number of other eucalypt species including Corymbia
calophylla (marri), C. variegata (northern spotted
gum), E. amplifolia (cabbage gum), E. melliodora
(yellow box), E. rudis (flooded gum) and E.
tenuramis (silver peppermint).
Figure 8. “El Abuelo” (“Grandfather Tree”),
a 65 metre-tall Eucalyptus globulus adjacent to El Landro
(river), near Viveiro in Spain. Certainly the most famous eucalypt
in Spain, where it grows in a forest of younger trees of the same
species, some of which are taller. Note the indigenous
Abies (fir) and Quercus (oak) growing under the
Figure 9. A typical forest-grown Eucalyptus viminalis in
Pontevedra, Spain. Rapid growth rates and branch-free cylindrical
trunks are typical of plantation eucalypts in Spain and
Biobuzz issue fourteen, May 2011