California Redwood Confirmed as World’s Tallest Tree

HUMBOLDT, CA– A 379.1-ft. tall redwood found in a remote section of northern California’s Redwood National Park is the world’s tallest tree, researchers confirmed last week.

The tree, named “Hyperion,” is the largest of three redwoods discovered this summer that eclipse the previous world record holder, a 370.5-ft. tall redwood named “Stratosphere Giant.”

The researchers suspected tree was more than 378 ft. tall, but held off on declaring it a world record until Humboldt State University botanist Stephen Sillett climbed the giant tree two weeks ago.

Laser range finders are fairly accurate devices, but it is not always possible to hit a tree’s highest leaf from the ground when using such a device. The most accurate means of measuring a tree’s height is to climb into its crown and lower a fiberglass tape from the top.

The climb was delayed until the end of the Marbled Murrelet’s nesting season. The endangered species of bird relies on old-growth trees like the redwood. When the murrelet’s nesting season came to a close, Sillett climbed Hyperion and verified its status as the tallest tree.

The Redwood Creek basin, where Hyperion is located, was thoroughly logged during the 1970s before Jimmy Carter’s administration redrew the boundaries of Redwood National Park– an act that silenced the chainsaws in that particular neck of the woods.

“If you look at a map, it’s just amazing,” said Sillett. “Most of Redwood National Park has been cut. There are really just a few drips and drabs of old growth left in there, and in these little bits that are left, there are these tall trees lurking–and we just found them. One of the amazing things about this discovery is that we learned that this park expansion in 1978 really did save the tallest trees. No one has realized that until this summer.”

The discovery is part of an ongoing collaboration between Sillett and two naturalists, Chris Atkins and Michael Taylor. The three have been searching the range of redwood to document all living trees over 350 ft. tall and have thus far found 136 individual redwood trees over 350 ft. tall. When they began their work in the 1990s, only about 25 such trees were known.

“The only reason these discoveries are made is that a group of people are willing to go out looking for them–I’m lucky to be associated with Michael Taylor and Chris Atkins,” Sillett said. “We thought we’d mopped it up, as far as finding the tallest trees goes. No one has ever seen anything like this. It’s the most significant discovery in tree height in 75 years. It’s been pretty miraculous.”
–ENS