Giant tropical forest tree
Mangaris trees like this giant in Sabah have been measured at over 85 m. Photo: ©Tony Neilson

Sabah claims the world’s tallest tropical tree

It is rare these days to find good news about the environment, particularly when it comes to tropical forests. But here is something to raise your spirits.

I’ve seen some very tall trees in my time – notably the majestic giant redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) at Muir Woods reserve just over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Some 1000 years old, with the tallest survivors topping 77 m (252 ft), they were once a common sight along the California coast.

Walking among those redwoods, with their 15 cm-thick bark protecting them against the severest forest fires, really was a spiritual experience for a ‘tree guy’.

More exciting

Then, just the other day, came news of another, perhaps more exciting development in the tall timber stakes: discovery of the world’s tallest known tropical tree.

And as if that wasn’t significant enough, the monster meranti, which soars to 100.8 m (330.7 ft), is alive and well in the heavily logged Malaysian state of Sabah.

Having also visited Borneo and witnessed firsthand the mass destruction of prime tropical forest, replaced with oil palm plantations, it really is a minor miracle that any giant timber trees remain standing.

The saviour in the case of the yellow meranti (Shorea faguetiana) now known as Menara (Malaysian for tower) is that it grows inside the Danum Valley Conservation Area (yep, been there, too).

An entire grove

National Geographic reported in April that the previous record height of an individual tropical tree was 94.1 m, found in an entire grove of 90-m-plus yellow meranti.

The new record-holder, discovered by a team led by the Universities of Nottingham and Oxford, working with the South East Asian Rainforest Research Partnership, is also the world’s tallest-known flowering plant. They believe it is possible an even taller tree than Menara is still waiting to be found in the region.

Best protected

Danum is one of the best protected and least disturbed tracts of lowland rainforest left in South East Asia, and a refuge for orangutan, clouded leopard, pygmy elephant and numerous endangered tropical birds and animals.

It can be a bit of a mission to get there, but Danum and other forest reserves nearby are alive with possibilities for photographers, birders and wildlife enthusiasts. But don’t go during the wet season!

©Natural Images 2019

Inside a redwood forest
The tallest surviving giant redwoods of California top 77 m. Photo: ©NI

©2018 TONY NEILSON All Rights Reserved. All images are protected by Australian copyright law and cannot be downloaded or reproduced without my permission. Please contact me.


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