Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Giant Eucalyptus of Australia

Most eucalyptus trees are moderately-sized but come to their native land, Australia, and you will be surprised at how tall these trees can grow. Indeed, eucalyptus are one of the tallest trees in the world rivaling the coast redwoods of North America.

Eucalyptus is not a single species. In fact, it’s the genus, with more than seven hundred species under it. Nearly all of them are native to Australia. The tallest among them is eucalyptus regnans, colloquially known as mountain ash, which regularly grows above 85 meters. It is also the tallest flowering plant in the world.
Currently, the tallest living eucalyptus, a member of eucalyptus regnans, is 99.6 meters tall. It’s nicknamed Centurion, and it grows in southern Tasmania. For comparison, the tallest coast redwood, the Hyperion, is 115.6 meters tall —only 16 meters taller.

In the not-too-distant past, the Tasmanian mountain ash had reached heights greater than today's giants. In 1881, a surveyor, George Cornthwaite, measured a felled tree in Victoria at 114.3 meters. That tree was about 1 meter shorter than Hyperion. In 1872, the Inspector of State Forests, William Ferguson, discovered —as he indicated in a letter— a fallen tree that he measured to be 133 meters tall. The tree was burnt by fire, and before it fell, Ferguson believed the tree might have been 150 meters tall.

Similar claims of exceedingly tall trees have come from several other people. Ferdinand von Mueller reported to have personally measured a tree at 122 meters, while nurseryman David Boyle, claimed in 1862, to have measured a fallen tree at 119.5 meters. The tree, which broke when it fell, might originally have stood at 128 meters. Unverified reports of trees measuring up to 146 meters also exist.

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