Trees are an important part of our planet. They help clean the air, provide food for animals and humans alike, and create beauty in their natural habitats. Tree species vary across the world. Some stand out among all others and can reach heights of over 350 feet high! Trees can reach these heights by sucking up water from the ground and soaking in the sun. They don't need reinforced concrete columns to anchor their massive frames like manufactured high rises. It's just another reason nature's skyscrapers are so impressive!
The tallest tree on the planet is a coastal redwood named Hyperion after a titan in Greek mythology. It certainly lives up to role towering over the earth at a whopping 380 ft tall. Coastal redwoods are, on average, the tallest and largest species of tree on planet. Another species of tree that gets close is the giant sequoia. While the giant sequoia can't claim the title of the tallest tree species, it is undoubtedly the largest.
There is a giant sequoia named The General Sherman Tree located in the aptly named Giant Forest of Sequoia National Park that is the largest recorded tree in existence. According to botany's terms, this claim is based on measuring the volume of the tree's trunk or the bole. The General Sherman Tree has an estimated bole volume of 52,508 cubic ft. For reference, that could fit nearly 375,000 gallons inside. This tree is estimated to be well over 2,000 years old. Despite its remarkable age, it still isn't close to being the oldest tree on record, but that's for another blog.
These green giants can grow to such great heights due to a long chain of evolutionary adaptations principally precipitated by competition. After all, in a forest of trees, the one with access to the most sunlight, an essential source of energy, will become the tallest. This is the motivation for height but what are the mechanics and conditions that facilitate this kind of growth?
First, redwoods have adapted their leaves to pull moisture out of the air around them. This is a massive help because one factor that disincentivizes other trees from growing so tall is that the taller they get, the harder it is to transport water from the roots to the top of the tree. Additionally, the environment needs to be able to support this kind of growth in order for it to happen. Only in particular parts of the world is the soil nutrient-dense enough, the weather moderate enough without unbearable wind speeds, and water accessible enough to allow these super-sized organisms to grow.
Every tree starts as a seed, and the same goes for these giants of the natural world. It's hard to imagine that nature has found a way to make these wondrous, magnificent organisms. It's hard to appreciate the scale without standing next to one, but needless to say, they can be pretty daunting.