Exploring the Eel River Valley

The Redwood Forest

The Coast Redwood, Tallest Tree in the World

The coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) towers over all other trees in the world. At 112.1 meters (367.8 feet) the coast redwood discovered on the banks of Redwood Creek by the National Geographic Society in 1963 was the tallest known tree, known as the Stratosphere Giant. However, in 2006 the world's reigning tallest living tree, seems to have lost its title to not one but three contenders.

Tall redwood trees on the Avenue of the Giants.

Tall Redwood Trees on the Avenue of the Giants.

Like the 370-foot Giant, the three trees are coast redwoods. They were discovered this summer in Redwood National Park near Eureka by a team of California researchers who spend most of their free time bushwhacking through North Coast forests in search of taller and taller trees.

So far, the group has found about 135 redwoods that reach higher than 350 feet, said team member Chris Atkins, the man credited with finding the Stratosphere Giant in August 2000 in nearby Humboldt Redwoods State Park. The tallest of the three new finds, a redwood named Hyperion, measures 378.1 feet. Next in line, Helios, stands at 376.3 feet; Icarus, the third, reaches 371.2 feet.

Atkins and Taylor discovered Helios and Icarus on July 1 and Hyperion on Aug. 25. They took initial measurements with hand-held lasers before returning with Steve Sillett, a Humboldt State University biologist known for his work on the ecosystems of ancient forest canopies, and Robert Van Pelt, a forest ecologist at the University of Washington. The foursome shot more measurements using a tripod-mounted laser fitted with a remote trigger designed to eliminate human-induced wobbles.

Atkins said Hyperion soon will be measured again with a tripod laser or with a "tape drop" -- in which someone climbs the tree and drops a measuring tape to the ground -- before its record-breaking status is confirmed. Tape drops can't be conducted for at least two weeks because of National Park Service restrictions to protect the marbled murrelet, a small seabird that nests in old-growth redwoods.

If and when the measurement on Hyperion is confirmed, it is likely to supplant the Stratosphere Giant in the Guinness Book of World Records.     Continued.

NEXT: More Redwood Facts


The Redwoods


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Avenue of the Giants.

Humboldt Redwoods State Park.