How to Become the Tallest Tree in the World
These days the trees that hold records for height are excessively tall, for sure, but trees that were even bigger have probably lived. Trees grow tall because they have enough access to nutrients, they're sheltered from damage and they've got access to enough light. But biologists think there is a height above which trees — any tree of any species — just can't grow. This is probably somewhere between 400 and 426 feet (122 and 130 meters), which is still gargantuan by any standard.
The cap on how tall a tree can become has to do with gravity. You're successful as a tree only insofar as you can grow to a place where you have access to as much light as you want. A coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) is a species that grows very tall, but at some point it gets hard to haul water up a trunk that's as tall as a high-rise building — which is why tall trees taper off at the top.
And although we don't have any current examples of a tree at the theoretical maximum height, we've got examples that come pretty close. Although the exact location of these trees is often kept a secret from the public, here is the tallest tree in the world and some close competitors:
1. Hyperion, Coast Redwood
Hyperion is the world's tallest living tree. This coast redwood grows on a slope, so its average height is 360 feet (116 meters) tall, and its trunk is just over 16 feet (4.94 meters) in diameter. Hyperion stands in Northern California in Redwood National Park and is estimated to be between 600 and 800 years old, which is relatively young, considering coast redwoods have been known to live over 2,000 years.
Hyperion was discovered in 2006 by two naturalists named Chris Atkins and Michael Taylor, who were bushwhacking through a remote area of Redwood National Park. The month before, they had found three other behemoth coast redwoods in a grove nearby, measuring 375 feet (114.09 meters), 371 feet (113.14 meters) and 363 feet (110.76 meters) and named them from Greek mythology: Helios, Icarus and Daedalus, respectively, These three became the tallest trees in the world for a month, until Atkins and Taylor discovered Hyperion, which was then named the world's tallest tree. The exact location of Hyperion is a secret.
So, the world's largest tree is as tall as a 35-story building, but its close neighbors aren't much shorter. It's hard to compete with coast redwoods for height, but the next six tall trees are getting there.
2. Menara, Yellow Meranti
The world's tallest tropical tree is a yellow meranti (Shorea faguetiana) named Menara that grows in the Danum Valley Conservation Area in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. Although there has been a little disagreement over its exact height, Menara is a very tall tree: A recent measurement recorded its height at 331 feet (100.8 meters), which is why it's nicknamed for the Malay word for "tower." Menara is also likely the world's tallest angiosperm, or flowering plant.
3. Centurion, Mountain Ash
Centurion is a giant mountain ash (Eucalyptus regnans) standing in the Arve valley of Tasmania, Australia, at 330 feet (100.5 meters) tall, with a trunk diameter of 13 feet (4.05 meters). In 2019, Australia's tallest tree was damaged by the lightning-ignited Tasmanian bushfires that burned 494,210 acres (200,000 hectares) — almost 3 percent— of the island's land area.
Although the fires damaged the base of its trunk, Centurion seems to have pulled through, although the damage might prevent the tree from growing much taller.
4. Doerner Fir, Coast Douglas-fir
The Doerner Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) lives in the Pacific Northwestern U.S., in Coos County, Oregon. Clocking in at 327 feet (99.7 meters) tall, with a diameter of 11.5 feet (3.5 meters), the Doerner Fir sits on heavily logged public land, so it's a wonder that still stands. Discovered in 1989, it's named after a local public servant.
5. Raven's Tower, Sitka Spruce
Raven's Tower is a 317-foot (96.7 meters) sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) discovered in 2001 by Michael Taylor, who also discovered Hyperion, Helios, Icarus and other famous tall trees. Raven's Tower's location is a secret, but it lives inn Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in Northern California, which was established in 1923 to protect giant trees like Raven's Tower.
6. Unnamed Giant Sequoia
California's giant sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum) are famous for being huge, and the biggest of the bunch is 314-foot (95.7 meters) monster living in Sequoia National Forest. Giant sequoias are not only tall, they've got some of the sturdiest trunks, growing up to 25 feet (7.7 meters) in diameter.
7. White Knight, Manna Gum
The manna gums (Eucalyptus viminalis), or white peppermint trees, of the Evercreech Forest Reserve in Tasmania are known for their impressive height, but the White Knight is the tallest of them all. The location of this 299-foot (91-meter) spectacle is no secret — it's a tourist destination.