Scientists from the University of Cambridge discovered what they think could be the tallest recorded tropical tree. Found in Malaysia in the Sabah state’s “Lost World”, the Yellow Meranti tree is endangered and as a fun fact, it is more commonly found in the computer game Minecraft than on Earth. At its tallest point, the tree is nearly 300 feet tall which is just a little shorter than London’s Big Ben.
In collaboration with the Sabah Forestry Department, the scientists found the tree using a LiDAR scanner carried by an airplane. It’s one thing to track down a tall tree and another entirely to measure just how tall it is. Unding Jami, local expert tree climber, scaled the tree with a tape measure to pin down its height. At the top he texted the scientists to let them know he was unable to take photographs because “there’s an eagle around that keeps trying to attack me and also lots of bees flying around.”
Nevertheless, it’s not the tallest tree in the world. That record goes to a staggering 377-foot California redwood – but the scientists think it is probably the tallest tree in the tropics. According to scientist David Coomes, trees in temperate regions grow taller than tropical trees but the real reason for this has still not been found.
The sad part is that Yellow Meranti trees are endangered mainly due to logging for palm oil industry, however, the Sabah government recently said it would attempt to restore an area near the newly discovered tree.
Coomes explained, “Conserving these giants is really important. Some, like the California redwoods, are among the largest and longest-living organisms on earth. Huge trees are crucial for maintaining the health of the forest and its ecology.”
Photo credit: Stephanie Law and the University of Cambridge