Tallest tree in Africa is ... you guessed... Eucalyptus


Giant Eucalyptus in South Africa: the Grand Trees (I)

Gustavo Iglesias Trabado Contact GIT Forestry Consulting
GIT Forestry Consulting - Consultoría y Servicios de Ingeniería Agroforestal - www.git-forestry.com - EUCALYPTOLOGICS

We have previously seen at EUCALYPTOLOGICS several examples of Giant Eucalypt Trees around the world, both at their natural Australian forest habitats, or as the heritage of forestry pioneers overseas, covering Spain & Portugal in Europe, the United States in America or New Zealand in Oceania. Today, aided by a guest expert from the Southern Hemisphere, we explore what could easily be the tallest cultivated Eucalyptus in the world. Join us in a virtual trip to visit the Eucalyptus Giants of South Africa! Our first step in the walk takes us to Magoebaskloof, another Valley of the Giants.


by Izak van der Merwe (1)

More than one century ago, in 1906, a stand of Eucalyptus saligna was planted on Woodbush Estate in the Limpopo Province by one of South Africa’s early forestry pioneers, Alexander James O’Connor. Many of the trees have reached nowadays impressive heights measured at between 70 and 80 m. In 2003 the tallest of these trees was measured by a land surveyor at 81.5m tall (+265 ft).

Tallest tree in Africa: Giant Eucalyptus saligna at Woodbush Forest Reserve, South Africa / El arbol mas alto de Africa: Eucalipto saligna gigante en la Reserva Forestal de Woodbush, Sudafrica / by Izak van der Merwe / Gustavo Iglesias Trabado / GIT Forestry Consulting, Consultoría y Servicios de Ingeniería Agroforestal, Lugo, Galicia, España, Spain / Eucalyptologics, information resources on Eucalyptus cultivation around the world / Eucalyptologics, recursos de informacion sobre el cultivo del eucalipto en el mundo

Fig. 1: Tallest tree in Africa, 81.5 m height (+265 ft) Eucalyptus saligna at Woodbush Forest Reserve, South Africa. Photo courtesy Izak van der Merwe. (Click image to enlarge)

This stand of trees is not only the tallest in Africa, but also the tallest group of cultivated Eucalyptus in the Southern Hemisphere, and possibly in the world. For two decades these monumental trees have been a well-known landmark to hikers along the Magoebaskloof Trail, which among other points of interest, allows the trekker to visit O'Connor's Memorial.

Alexander James O'Connor epitaph

Fig. 2: AJ O'Connor epitaph at O'Connor Memorial, Magoebaskloof. Note the resemblance to Sir Christopher Wren's at St. Paul's Cathedral. Photograph courtesy Izak van der Merwe. (Click image to enlarge)

During a storm in September 2006 one of the giant Eucalyptus crashed to the ground and took the tallest tree down with it. A search will be done among this stand of trees to determine the new contender to the title of tallest tree in Africa.

Woodbush Forest Reserve is located in an extensive mountainous valley known as Magoebaskloof, where several other stands of giant Eucalyptus saligna thrive, all taller than 70 m. To some extent, this is another Valley of the Giants.

Alexander James O'Connor grave and epitaph

Fig. 3: O'Connor Memorial at Woodbush Forest Reserve, surrounded by giant Eucalyptus reaching 70 m height. Photo courtesy Izak van der Merwe. (Click image to enlarge)

The humid sub-tropical weather of this area of the country and its deep soils of granitic origin are thought to create the extra-ordinary growing conditions that led to many giant trees growing there.

These early O'Connor Giants might well have been inspirational for further Eucalyptus tree plantings taking place in the estates of the late Dr. Hans Merensky from the the 1930s ahead, opening the path for the Australian trees to become adopted as one of the major types grown nowadays in South African commercial timber plantations.

(1) = Izak van der Merwe is Senior Forestry Scientist at the Department of Water Affairs & Forests of the Republic of South Africa. Among other activities, and with the assistance of the Dendrological Society of South Africa he and DWAF have been charting South Africa's Champion Trees in order to help protect and preserve this global monumental natural heritage.

Want to know more?

Esterhuyse, von Breitenbach, Sohnge, Remarkable Trees of South Africa / Gustavo Iglesias Trabado / GIT Forestry Consulting, Consultoría y Servicios de Ingeniería Agroforestal, Lugo, Galicia, España, Spain / Eucalyptologics, information resources on Eucalyptus cultivation around the world / Eucalyptologics, recursos de informacion sobre el cultivo del eucalipto en el mundoEsterhuyse, Neels; Breitenbach, Jutta von & Sohnge, Hermien (2001) Remarkable Trees of South Africa. Briza Publications, Arcadia. 160 pp. ISBN: 978-1-875093-28-1

Voortrekker Map to Alexander James O'Connor epitaph Voortrekker Map of Magoebaskloof Hiking Trail (PDF 433KB) courtesy of Komatiland Ecotourism


EUCALYPTOLOGICS wants to express its gratitude to Rodrigo Giménez, Izak van der Merwe, the Department of Water Affairs & Forests of South Africa and the Dendrological Society of South Africa for their efforts at both sides of the Atlantic to identify and contribute to preserve remarkable trees in general and giant Eucalyptus in particular as natural heritage for future generations, and for contributing data and photography to make this small article delivered to readers in 94 countries around the world.

Department of Water Affairs and Forests, Government of the Republic of South Africa / Departamento de Aguas y Bosques, Gobierno de la República de Sudáfrica /  Gustavo Iglesias Trabado / GIT Forestry Consulting, Consultoría y Servicios de Ingeniería Agroforestal, Lugo, Galicia, España, Spain / Eucalyptologics, information resources on Eucalyptus cultivation around the world / Eucalyptologics, recursos de informacion sobre el cultivo del eucalipto en el mundo


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35 Comments by our readers :::

Anonymous said...

Posted by Marisha-Atlanta on 7/11/2008, 1:09 pm, in reply to "Tallest tree in Africa is... Eucalyptus"

Wow thanks for posting, I love learning new things about various plant species around the world.

Anonymous said...

Posted by Gus on 7/11/2008, 1:37 pm, in reply to "Re: Tallest tree in Africa is... Eucalyptus"

Thanks Marisha :-) Just trying to publicise the wonderful natural monuments these trees can become, both in Australia and in all the other countries where they have been introduced to in the last 200 years :-) They certainly are as worthy of preservation for future generations to witness these wonders as any other special tree or special plant of any sort.

Anonymous said...

Posted by Darin - Phoenix on 7/11/2008, 1:50 pm, in reply to "Tallest tree in Africa is... Eucalyptus"

I'd guess that the tallest tree on any continent (except North America) would be Eucalyptus. LOL. Too bad we don't have a couple hundred years to see if a Euc in NorCal would overtake the redwoods in their home turf. (since that seems to be the climate for supertall trees). it would be an interesting match-up. LOL

Anonymous said...

Posted by Gus on 7/11/2008, 2:03 pm, in reply to "Re: Tallest tree in Africa is... Eucalyptus"

Those wonderful redwood forests have several millenia of growth advantage :-) But the good thing is this ain't a race. What matters is preserving all these treasures no matter where they are, and those in the West Coast fog belt are unique. Darin, now no one reads us, it is quite possible the redwoods could not be beaten even if we could watch the race for a couple extra centuries :D

Anonymous said...

Posted by Darin - Phoenix on 7/11/2008, 2:09 pm, in reply to "Re: Tallest tree in Africa is... Eucalyptus"

Gus, how tall are the tallest Eucalypts that you know of, and their estimated ages? Seems like Eucs are capapable of growing almost as tall in less than half the time. Amazing trees nonetheless (All of them, redwoods, etc). Eucs are by far the tallest and biggest trees we can grow here, seeing a mammoth E. camaldulensis with DBH of 8ft is pretty amazing. (at Boyce Thompson Arboretum)

Anonymous said...

Posted by Gus on 7/11/2008, 2:27 pm, in reply to "Re: Tallest tree in Africa is... Eucalyptus"

These two I have seen in person, they would be some of the tallest in Europe, and have reached +230 feet in 100 to 125 years. There is a video of one of them here, so you can get a dynamic idea of the size of the beast (we call it Grandpa). So, maybe it is right saying (some) eucalypts are some of the "fastest tallest" trees in the world. The fastest I have seen around here is 80 feet trees harvested for timber at age 9, but they can be faster in tropical climate, so go figure.

I remember the Boyce Thompson Red River Gum!! Yes, I have now some good amount of photos (many of them thanks to the nice folks here!) of E. camaldulensis special giant trees in the USA and the Mediterranean Europe, it is about time to post on these. Not being "the tallest" does not mean not being very remarkable! There are good numbers of excellent old Eucalyptus specimens all over CA, AZ, NM, TX and elsewhere in the States :-) And then Ian Barclay and other folk at the PNW have spread the fever too, we might see impressive things there in some decades, with a bit of luck :-)

Anonymous said...

Posted by JohnCO5b on 7/11/2008, 8:09 pm, in reply to "Re: Tallest tree in Africa is... Eucalyptus"

I read that approaching 400 feet presents water transport problems for any tree, that precludes it surpassing the 400 foot mark. I do not subscribed to the old reports of the 417 foot Dougfir in BC, or the even more outrageous 525 foot E. regnans in Australia. The limitation of both redwoods and Eucalypts nearing 400 feet with none surpassing that height, and growth problems in the crown of the 350+ foot specimens, support water transport problems.

Howard Libby Tree acquired a dead top, and I expect Hyperion and the co-champion on Montgomery Creek, at 370+ feet, won't stay there too long.

Suffice to say, S. sempervirens is the tallest conifer, and E. regnans (correct me if known by another name now) the tallest broadleaf.

Anonymous said...

Posted by Gus on 7/11/2008, 10:30 pm, in reply to "Water transport limitations"

There is a good summary of different recent research evidences pointing to hydraulic limitations to height growth published at Science, easy to read.

But I think it might be important not to put an arbitrary "maximum height achievable" as definitive boundary between what can be and what cannot be. Most of those giant height measurements along time involve too many variables. Plus, the number of trees of such a size available is limited for many tree types, and the equations predicting that maximum height threshold should also be taken with caution, as good indicators, but not "law". Most of them in fact do predict a range of height, not a particular height. It is like pondering how much large a blue whale can be, being blue whales difficult to catch and measure :-)

We cannot be certain that those old and apparently exaggerated measurements (those which arrived to our days, and those which were lost) are accurate, since the trees are not there anymore. But we cannot be certain either that they are extreme exaggerations, since the trees are not there anymore. Hence, maybe the wise thing is preserving as many big ones as possible of every type, and see what happens. It is not the first time that trees prove men wrong :-)

All that said, there is a limit somewhere But many external factors may obscure the biological potential for a giant tree to go over 400 ft, 450 ft or whatever height. Stand dynamics is the first and most obvious one, excluding external factors (e.g. gales and all that).

And no worries, E. regnans is still E. regnans :-)

Anonymous said...

Posted by Ian, Sequim WA on 7/11/2008, 8:25 pm, in reply to "Water transport limitations"

I don't think there's anything outrageous about a 417' douglas fir in BC. There was a well documented one that reached 393' in Washington before it blew over in 1930. The tall Eucalyptus regnans reports seem a little more dubious and I would be curious to know whether anyone is conducting more recent research to shed light on their accuracy or lack thereof.

Anonymous said...

Posted by JohnCO5b on 7/11/2008, 8:11 pm, in reply to "Water transport limitations"

Thanks for a great contribution to the discussion. Kudos! I won't be testing any Eucalypts here. Somebody else gotta take up that cross. I am outta room.

Anonymous said...

Posted by Gus on 7/11/2008, 10:59 pm, in reply to "Re: Water transport limitations"

Ian, my perception is it is a dubious report too. I have some data on that giant Mountain Ash somewhere, but I recall it not being a direct account of a measurement. Many of these cases are somewhat like "someone said that someone said that someone saw how someone said it measured that much". It does not necessarily mean the trees were not that height, but as reliable source, it is of less confidence than others.

As example, the Baron wrote in 1869 about Karri (E. diversicolor): "Messrs. Muir saw trees with stems 300 feet long up to the first branch, and I myself noticed many trees which approached 400 feet in their total height".

How to interpret something like this? Was he ever in Western Australia? Was he assuming karri was the same as E. colossea, being the later another giant eucalypt type growing near Melbourne? Was he really meaning karri, and "approaching 400" was anything between 200 and 400? No matter its accuracy, this is at least a written source of certain trust. Still, does not yield definitive data.

What is fact is that none of those trees can be re-measured, they faded away a long time ago. But same way, the fact of nowadays trees being "shorter" does not prove bigger ones did not exit, or can exist.

And what is fact is, that without wise protection received for decades, Hyperion and friends (tall trees wherever they are) would possibly have never reached those heights we see today as "not beyond".

Anonymous said...

Posted by JohnCO5b on 7/11/2008, 9:33 pm, in reply to "Re: Water transport limitations"

I would want to know how was the 1930 fir 393' measured, and what happened? So often, these things turn out to be estimations, rather than bonafide measurements. Why are these isolated trees so much taller than companions, when among redwoods, the champions are in groves of nearly indistinguishable, slightly lesser trees?

You get the skeptic side of me here.

Anonymous said...

Posted by Gus on 7/11/2008, 10:36 pm, in reply to "Gus"

Kudos back! John, any eucalypt would have it very difficult inland there to grow outdoors! They are "miracle trees", but have their limits :-) I shake just thinking on 5b winters. Now, indoors, it could be, at least for some time :-)

Anonymous said...

Posted by Ian, Sequim WA on 7/12/2008, 1:25 am, in reply to "Re: Water transport limitations"

At the USFS Arboretum in Wind River, there is a cross section of this tree with a plaque that says the tree was 393'. I saw it myself. When it fell in 1930 it was 1,020 years old. I guess for a tree that recent, a plaque plus all the tree people connected with the University of Washington (Bob Van Pelt, Arthur Lee Jacobsen, Art Kruckeburg, etc.) agreeing about the height of this tree is good enough for me.

Anonymous said...

Posted by Brandt--San Diego on 7/12/2008, 1:33 am, in reply to "Tallest tree in Africa is... Eucalyptus"

Just like others mentioned...thanks for posting! It would be very interesting to see a list of "tallest trees" for each country or continent...I wonder how many of them would be non-natives (like the euc being not only South Africa's but all of Africa's tallest tree).

Do you know what Europe's tallest tree is? Could it be a eucalyptus in northwestern Spain or Portugal?

Anonymous said...

Posted by Gus on 7/12/2008, 4:50 am, in reply to "Re: Tallest tree in Africa is... Eucalyptus"

Brandt, it surely there is some variation depending on country and general area (e.g. tallest tree of, say, some subsaharian country in Africa vs. some tropical forest country in the same continent), but I would always think of these "tallest tree" titles as something provisional and temporary.

On one hand, we men tend to rely on what other men do, so if someone says sometime "big trees there", we go, see, measure, compare to others we know of and think "this is the biggun!". But on the other hand, even today, we do not know it all. For areas with vast acreages of wilderness (Russia, Canada, USA, etc) and small and recent human population around, it is possible that not all the giants have been found or measured recently. So, really, we do not know "what the tallest tree" is, but "what might be the tallest of those trees we know".

All that said, many of the non natives would possibly qualify among the biggest trees in many "old countries" too. Some would be in parks, big garden estates, etc, safe from the axe for centuries after being introduced as botanical rarities, while native forests had already been exhausted or were at least managed to some extent for timber production. In addition, some of these would not be subject to some of the limitant factors for growth, as browsing, if they left the associated fauna at their native place.

About what is the tallest tree in Europe, first answer should be "we do not really know". But surely the Karri Knight would rank among the evident candidates, closely followed by other big Eucalyptus around here. "Fastest tallest" specimens which have not been around long enough as for chances of many axes or chainsaws to have an impact. And even in this case, they are very scarce.

Anonymous said...

Posted by Brandt--San Diego on 7/12/2008, 1:50 pm, in reply to "Re: Tallest tree in Africa is... Eucalyptus"

Yep--I'd remembered your posting of the E. diversicolor in Portugal before--I'd figured that would be a candidate.

I would think that with increasing satellite mapping technology that one could create computer software to pick out unusually large trees--if not now--then probably in the next decade or so. That would get a boost of exploration (for the sake of making actually measurements) to places with vast wilderness--like Russia or Brazil (though hopefully it would be put to benevolent use to save that part of the forest versus to find large trees to harvest!).

Speaking of Africa, I do remember seeing (back in 2002) South Africa's largest Afrocarpus (Podocarpus) falcatus along the Garden Route (south coast). However, I found out latest that it's nowhere near being the tallest A. falcatus since it's about 120 feet tall (versus a maximum of 200 feet), though its as wide as it is tall. A. falcatus could be one of Africa's tallest native trees (a conifer in a mild temperate climate with a winter precip maximum). This was one of the last trips I took with a film camera, so my pic isn't very good... Here's a pic from Wikipedia...

Anonymous said...

Posted by stan on 7/12/2008, 3:17 pm, in reply to "Re: Tallest tree in Africa is... Eucalyptus"

I heard that hydrostatic pressure prevent tree's over 470 feet.But,since we know trees like Redwood and E. regnans once reached over 500'..that pretty much shows that mother nature has some method to get around that.

And that tree in the photo is large-but I have seen much larger in the Hayward hills-100'+ Wit huge girths. Much more girth than the tree in front of the awed hiker...

Anonymous said...

Posted by Gus on 7/14/2008, 4:02 am, in reply to "Re: Tallest tree in Africa is... Eucalyptus"

Hello Stan :-)

I have some copies of those pics you took of some of those eucs at Hayward. Certainly quite impressive specimens. It cannot be really know without measuring and comparing, but certainly the E. saligna at the photo is not especially remarkabe because of its diameter/girth if we compare it to other giant trees, including some of the "fattest eucalypts" of each continent.

But it is (or was, in this case) very remarkable for its height: probably "Tallest Cultivated Eucalyptus (that we have references of)". Which means it could not have happened without a) Eucalyptus being exported from Australia to the world ("plant hunters") and b) Eucalyptus being cultivated by pioneer exotic plant growers ("plant acclimatizers").

What matters is that the trees along that valley in South Africa are, with that age and size, and with that history, very rare, or even unique. Hence, heritage to preserve :-)

Anonymous said...

Posted by Jeff Seymour TN on 7/11/2008, 4:21 pm, in reply to "Tallest tree in Africa is... Eucalyptus"

Thanks Gus.You are turning me into a big Eucalyptus fan.

Anonymous said...

Posted by Gus on 7/11/2008, 5:10 pm, in reply to "Re: Tallest tree in Africa is... Eucalyptus"

Beware Jeff , I started like that and ended up helping directly or indirectly to plant some 3 million of these amazing trees (!) But thanks for reading! :-)

Anonymous said...

Posted by Brandt--San Diego on 7/12/2008, 1:39 am, in reply to "Hydraulic limitations to height growth"

That is a very well-written and informative article...thanks for posting!

Now...that would be an interesting experiment for some space station where there's no gravity. But then a lot of variables other than hydrostatic pressure would affect that experiment.

Anonymous said...

Posted by Gus on 7/12/2008, 5:31 am, in reply to "Re: Hydraulic limitations to height growth"

You're right Brandt. Even with feet on firm soil and accounting gravity it would be difficult to set up an experimental design aiming to "let the giants grow to their biologic limits while we measure it all during the process". What we measure today and assume as "the limits" is a result of natural dynamics of each giant tree stand, and those are variable depending on species, site, and a hundred of other interconnected variables. Now, if we could regulate to some extent those natural stand dynamics to maximise giant tree height growth in the very long term (several centuries or approaching a millenium depending on species), that would possibly give some interesting answers.

And let's not forget trees are variable too at an individual basis. I would not be surprised if some genotypes had a more favourable vessel system to pump water higher than the average, or whatever trait you might consider affecting this "hydraulic threshold". Just hypothetical example the previous one, but you get the point. Trees are not concrete poles, all the same. For modellers, a tree ruining the equation gives extra work. For biologists, it is just another example of nature humbling men's tools to understand it.

Anonymous said...

Posted by Brandt--San Diego on 7/12/2008, 2:02 pm, in reply to "Re: Hydraulic limitations to height growth"

Or an experiment one could do on earth--in some enclosed tower, plant a tree upside down (and somehow hold all the soil together and have light shining from below)! Of course, the benefits wouldn't justify the expense for something like that (though one could do it for a plant that normally just reaches 10 or 20 feet in a short enough time period for the same person to measure)!

Now...here's a thought--if a tree could have a mechanism to collect rainwater from its upper branches through aerial roots or roots that can harvest rainwater from little pockets (I've seen small trees--of different species--growing from branches of other trees that way). Some trees do develop aerial roots, though I don't think any conifers do (and most trees that do have aerial roots tend to grow sideways, like figs, more than tall, since the aerial roots all for horizontal expansion of territory (with the aerial roots usually going to the ground, versus...say...a moss clump on the trunk or directly into the air).

Anonymous said...

Posted by Gus on 7/14/2008, 4:12 am, in reply to "Re: Hydraulic limitations to height growth"

About the first idea, I cannot make any useful comment besides it could be expensive, but interesting

But about the second, I can make some comments, and for these gravity is essential. Rainfall behaviour has been studied around here to compare ecological behaviour of eucalypts, pines and oaks. When eucalypts are tall single stemmed normally quite straight trees there is a significant all year long (no leaf loss by winter) water capture by tree crown that ends up running down via large branches to main trunk, and down from upper main trunk to soil thanks to the relatively smooth bark. Something like the tree managing to "inject moisture" near the roots.

It might not seem too important, except when this means they can "make rainfall out of fog" arrive to the rootse!

In a same line of thought, adult leaf orientation is "hanging down and water repellant". This means "leaves collect atmospheric water and let it drop from their tips". Again, useful to "collect rainfall from the fog" and let it fall in the neighbourhood of their roots.

Smart trees, huh? :-)

Anonymous said...

Posted by JohnCO5b on 7/12/2008, 8:38 am, in reply to "Re: Hydraulic limitations to height growth"

Gus, those 400-450 foot trees may indeed be outliers, where conditions beyond understood water transport systems and limitations operate, and unfortunately since the specimens no longer exist, cannot be verified. Correct in how the present giants be preserved and given the opportunity to achieve what ever height their individual circumstances allow.

Thank you, and Brandt, for an enlightened, informative and very interesting discussion, that I hope is to continue.

Anonymous said...

Posted by JohnCO5b on 7/12/2008, 9:40 am, in reply to "Re: Water transport limitations"

Ian, that is indeed, an acceptable verification. Do you have any information on the height and location of the known champion doug fir? Do you have any information on the frequency of living doug fir surpassing a 300 foot height?

Anonymous said...

Posted by JohnCO5b on 7/12/2008, 9:45 am, in reply to "USFS"

Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) ranks as the second tallest tree species in the world behind coastal redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), and contains the largest trees in the entire Pinaceae family. The tallest known Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) is the Brummit Fir (located in Coos County, Oregon), which reaches the height 328 feet. In terms of thickness the Queets Fir, located in Olympic National Park, has a diameter at breast height of 14.3 feet. Most old growth Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) range in height from 200 to 250 feet, and have a diameter of 5 to 8 feet. The oldest known Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) can be found on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, and is estimated to be between 1300 to 1400 years old (Earle 1999).

Anonymous said...

Posted by Jim on 7/14/2008, 1:03 am, in reply to "USFS"

Today, it is hard to find a Douglas-fir over 300 feet. It was much easier 100 years ago. For big tree hunters interested in finding record height in Menziesii, the jury is still out. There are thousands of acres between California and British Columbia in which 350 footers may yet lurk. The tallest currently known is the 339 ft Brummit Fir, but I really doubt that's the tallest Menziesii in Oregon, let alone the Pacific Northwest. We might possibly find out for sure if we used aerial LIDAR over all of the old growth forests in the Pacific Northwest -- insane that would be.

Anonymous said...

Posted by Brandt--San Diego on 7/13/2008, 2:32 am, in reply to "Tallest tree in Africa is... Eucalyptus"

Gus et al...

I posted this in the coconut thread to John, but it probably fits better here, so I'll do a repost (I'm sure Gus would have some things to add)...

What seems to be the common factor among the places with the giant trees is a wet cool-mild winter and a somewhat dry but more importantly a mild summer. Let's look at some info...

First, one of your favorites, Fitzroya cupressoides...

according to conifers.org...

"Range S Chile & S Argentina "from the coast range south of Valdivia, and on Chiloe Island, to the Andes, between 41°S and 43°S" (Dallimore et al. 1967).

In Argentina, alerce grows on mountain slopes and lake shores, at elevations of 300 to 900 meters. Summer average temperatures are 13-16°C. Winter average temperatures vary from 2-4°C. The area receives 2000-4000 mm. of annual precipitation. In Chile, temperatures can be a bit higher at lower elevations, and rainfall is as high as 6000 mm (Marcelo Fabián Cano, e-mail 22-Dec-2003).

Curiously, although the tree grows in virtual rainforest, it is dependent on catastrophic fire in order to regenerate stands; the current widespread decline observed among remnant populations may be due in good measure to fire suppression (Lara et al. 1999)."

So...summer average temps are 13-16 C (or roughly 55-60 F). That's definitely quite cool...within 10 deg F of what would be considered a timberline average summer temp. Also, it's dependent on fire to regenerate, like a number of conifers, so that might explain the dry summers (but then most climates with heavy rainfall in winter yet a mild summer are dry in summer, so that might just be luck).



Summer average temps are in that same range as for Fitzroya near the coast...roughly 55-60 F, though higher towards the inland extent. Precip is, like the Fitzroya, high in winter but low in summer, though redwoods don't need fire to germinate (so not sure if the dry summer has an impact--positive or negative).

Douglas fir...

Obviously we're referring to the coastal variety of P. menziesii here, and thus summer temps will be similar in summer along the coast (and higher inland--just like with the somewhat inland redwoods). In the entire area, winter precip is higher (in most cases substantially so) than in summer. Areas that have the coastal variety should stay reasonably mild in winter (mostly zone 8 and 9, maybe some 7 at the inland extent).

E. regnans...

The tallest ones are in southern and eastern Tasmania, so I'll look at those stations...

Looks like summer temps are in that 55-60 deg F range again, at least in the mountainous areas. Precip is variable, but I can find areas that have 100 inches of rain per year, with double the precip in winter versus summer (though some areas are much drier--in the 20-30 inch range). Of course, being on an island, winters are mild--zone 9 mostly, with day/night temps similar to or just a few degrees below those in the redwood belt. Note that summer temps would be a little higher for the E. regnans in Victoria.

I'm not sure if E. regnans is the best tree to compare with redwoods, Fitzroya, etc., since it's not a conifer and has different growing, germinating, etc. mechanisms.

Now, I'll add a few of my own...

Agathis australis, the Kauri pine, in the northern part of the North Island of NZ...

There's one that's 169 feet tall (so not quite in the league of redwoods, but still pretty good). This is, of course, a conifer, so it makes a good comparison.

Rainfall is between about 1500 and 2500 meters, with about twice that coming in winter than summer (so summers aren't too dry). Summers are quite a bit warmer than for redwoods, Fitzroya, etc., with monthly averages in the mid to upper 60s.

Regarding Europe...

Northern Portugal/Northwestern Spain has a climate fairly similar to the northern part of the North Island of New Zealand, except slightly drier in summer. However, the large eucs are introduced there (I don't know of any giant natives).

So...in summary, it looks like the common theme is wet winters, relatively dry summers, fairly mild winters and very mild summers (so no extended warm or hot muggy weather in any of these locations). All these places have mountains with orographics enhancing precip. All have western exposures except perhaps E. regnans (again, a non-conifer, so it's not the best comparison), and at the mid-latitudes (another commonality), that's important for getting enough precip from the predominatingly west-to-east moving winter storms.

Anonymous said...

Posted by stan on 7/13/2008, 10:55 am, in reply to "Comparing the climates of certain giant conifers + E. regnans (repost from another thread)"

Also Brandt you left out the importance of a cool marine climate.The cool waters prevent any formation of Hurricanes/Typhoons. A giant tree would never get knocked down. And those areas rarely see fierce lightning storms.Not much topping of trees if not outright killed. Redwoods rarely see anything more than the rare winter rainstorm and heavy winds.And,as you know our heaviest rainstorms dont really compare to the midwest and eastcoast-or in the tropics with the monsoons.

Anonymous said...

Posted by Brandt--San Diego on 7/13/2008, 12:09 pm, in reply to "Re: Comparing the climates of certain giant conifers + E. regnans (repost from another thread)"

Hmmm...interesting point...but...along the Pacific Northwest coast (within the range of the coastal Douglas fir and other very large conifers), you can get some pretty strong winter storms (same thing with the central/southern Chilean coast--the "Roaring 40s"). Just look back 7 months (the Dec. 2007 storm that brought 90 MPH wind gusts to parts of the Washington/Oregon coast). However, with all the examples I gave (except the Kauri Pine in northern New Zealand), there are no tropical storms (and 90 MPH wind gusts for the Dec. 2007 Pac NW storm are still pretty light compared with most hurricanes).

Anonymous said...

Western Australia?

Posted by JohnCO5b on 7/12/2008, 9:24 am, in reply to "Re: Water transport limitations"

This leaps out to me. On every continent, to my knowledge, the "giant trees" of what ever species, grow on the western side, or edge of the continent, within something of a ~75% influence of oceanic or maritime climate. Without exception!

Precipitation and temperature patterns due to earth rotation must be more favorable for plant giantism on the western side of the continent, and within something of a maritime influence.

Furthermore, in mountain ranges of north-south orientation, again without exception to my knowledge, trees of the same species growing on the west facing influence, significantly surpass those on the east facing influence in height, and overall size. This is especially notable in the Cascade, the Sierra,
the Rockies, and even in the Appalachians. It occurs in the Andes, where Fitzroya cupressoides on the Chileno side approach redwood dimensions, where those in the isolated Argentinian pockets are comparatively diminutive, half their height and girth. Darwin noted Chileno F cupressoides with trunk diameter to 30 feet, which rivals S giganteum, and while no such specimen is known to exist now, and the tree was harvested as redwood lumber for many years, obviously felling the largest, there remain specimens with trunk diameter of 20 feet, of more than 250 height. I accept Darwin's measurement, because of his scientific accuracy.

Another curiosity is outside Chile, in cultivation (F cupressoides isn't well known in cultivation), specimens act as dwarf conifers, and in only one location outside Chile, has any F cupressoides surpassed a height of 20 feet. My twenty year old specimen is just three feet tall.

Anonymous said...

Posted by Gus on 7/14/2008, 4:24 am, in reply to "Western Australia?"

John, it seems there is a clear link to oceanic climates. But I must disagree about the "western edge of the continent". For Australia, the oceanic climates (or those more closely matching them) are in the South-East. There, the arching "South to North" Great Dividing Range acts as orographic "Great Wall", so to the East of it there is more moisture than to the West. Now, if you turn a map of Australia "upside down" and imagine the winter fronts hitting from the Northwest (as in Northern America, or Europe), you can see it is the same.

In such a case, giants in Western Australia would still be "an anomaly" :-)

It would be long to explain, but it could be useful to think that in the end, it is all related to the main oceanic streams and how they influence "atmospheric streams", which in turn, help define climate for each area. Check the ocean, and you'll understand the atmosphere

Anonymous said...

Hydrologic limitations to height growth

Posted by Gus on 7/14/2008, 1:41 pm, in reply to "Re: Hydraulic limitations to height growth"

I'll paste you an excerpt! It is a great description of "the big picture" from Bill Jackson, one of the Eucalyptus Giants of Tasmania :-)

I found it here, but the full reference is below.


At the base of the scarp the eucalypt savannah forests of the Midlands Graben consist of open communities of Eucalyptus pauciflora - E. viminalis or E. pauciflora - E. rubida in drier areas (Jackson 1965). Some savannah of E. ovata or E. rodwayii occur where the drainage is poor in the winter. The ground vegetation of these savannahs is a tussock grassland of Poa billardieri. Themeda australis and Lomandra longifolia may predominate on clayey soils.

Corridor forests of E. viminalis - Acacia melanoxylon occur on stream courses, and dry sclerophyll forests occur on low hills of sandy or lateritic soils. On the lower slopes of the scarp the open savannah is replaced by dry sclerophyll forests of the same tree species.

These forests increase in density and height as the rainfall increases. On areas of deep soil and sufficient moisture the ash species E. obliqua may replace the peppermint species E. pauciflora or E. amygdalina partially or completely as the dominant. The macrantherous species E. viminalis, E. rubida or E. ovata remain as associate species. Above 300m altitude these species are replaced by E. dalrympleana as the associate with E. obliqua.

Due to increasing rainfall there is a structural transition from dry sclerophyll forest, with low and medium shrub layers of Epacridaceae and Leguminosae, to wet sclerophyll, with well developed tall shrub layers of Olearia argophylla and Pomaderris apetala. On the wetter northern and western slopes where the annual rainfall exceeds 1250mm, the climax is a rainforest of Nothofagus cunninghamii - Atherosperma moschatum.

This climax is attained only in areas topographically protected from high fire incidence (Jackson 1968). Because of the fairly regular disturbance by fire, most areas carry "Mixed" forest (Gilbert 1958), with a stratum of eucalypts over a substratum of rainforest and wet sclerophyll shrub species such as Acacia dealbata, Prostanthera lasianthos and Olearia argophylla.

Near the upper lip of the scarp face (c.1000m) water availability is greatly increased by the “fog drip” or “cloud stripping” effect of the vegetation on the cloud base so prevalent around the plateau rim. Under these conditions a dwarf "elfin" rainforest or thicket of Nothofagus occurs. Nothofagus cunninghamii extends around the rim of the Western Tiers.

Above 450m the subalpine species become increasingly evident. E. obliqua is replaced by E. delegatensis. The E. delegatensis - E. dalrympleanea forest extends up the slope to altitudes of about 1000m or slightly higher in sheltered situations ......over much of its range E. delegatensis is growing on a relict solifluction sorted mantle. This surface is covered in many places with large dolerite boulders, though there is commonly a deep yellow-brown soil on solifluction deposits (cf. alpine humus soil) beneath, with a shallow water table. The smaller shrubs have difficulty reaching this reliable supply of water in the summer and the shrub layer is scattered and more xeromorphic on the upper slopes. Bedfordia salicina, Oleria viscosa, O. phlogopappa and Cyathodes parvifolia predominate.

With increasing and more reliable precipitation near the cloud base the sub-alpine shrub belt increases in density. Around 910m dense shrubberies of Hakea lissosperma, Orites diversifolia, Lomatia polymorpha and Telopea truncata occur as a fire-determined deflection state of the climax Nothafagus thicket ..........

Where fire is frequent enough to maintain eucalypts, an open woodland overstory of E. coccifera - E. gunnii or E. archerii occurs. At altitudes exceeding 1000m exposure to glazing winds and snow limits tree and shrub forms and only the specialised alpine communities are found. Well-drained areas are occupied by a proteaceous - epacridaceous closed heath or shrubland; while those areas receiving a high precipitation but obtaining some topographic protection from the wind, carry dwarf coniferous forest or coniferous shrubbery. Poorly drained areas carry a complex mosaic of herbfield, bog and bolster moor communities. Cold air drainage "basins" carry tussock grassland, sedgeland or bog communities.... "

Jackson, W. D. (1973). Vegetation of the Central Plateau. In 'The Lake Country of Tasmania'. Royal Society of Tasmania Symposium, November 1972, pp. 61-86

Nothing too strange in these dynamics of plant communities adapting to rainfall variation("the clouds"), caused by physiographic variation ("the slope"). What matters is that some of the "very tall growing" eucalypts in Tasmania develop at mid elevations, in conditions of increased availability of moisture. They are also able as first stratum of the forest to capture this occult rainfall. "Maximum tree size" happens there (and also in other places).

Now, what would happen if you transplanted one of those mid slope tall tree wet eucalypt forest types (or, simplifying, one of the very tall growing tree species only) to the top area (soil allowing) or to mid slopes of a slope receiving 2 or 3 times as much annual rainfall, direct or occult?

A very efficient cloud harvester with extra moisture available... becomes a fast giant :-)

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