3 Record-Breaking Australian Trees

We Aussies love to overachieve, and our trees are no exception!  From the tallest, to the oldest, to the most fruitful, let’s explore a few of the incredible trees Australia has to boast of.

Centurion Tree Perth

The Tallest Tree

Located in Tasmania, the title of Tallest Tree in the Southern Hemisphere and Second Tallest in the World belongs to “Centurion”. 

As of January 2019, the Eucalyptus regnans measures at 100.9m, making it one of only two trees on the planet to be in the exclusive One Hundred Meter Club.  Its sole club partner is the Californian Redwood, measuring at 115m.

Centurion was discovered in 2008 by state-owned logging company Sustainable Timber Tasmania (STT). Their staff, who were mapping timber resources using aerial laser technology, gave it the name Centurion because it was the 100th giant tree to be registered.

This record breaker is thought to be around 320 years old – give or take sixty years – and it is one of only twenty-four Tasmanian Eucalypts trees to be over 90m in height.

When it was first measured in 2008, Centurion was 99.6m tall. By our calculations, Centurion grows at a rate of approximately 11.8cm per year, with an overall height growth of 1.3m in 11 years from 2008 to 2019.  Not a bad effort for a tree that is three centuries old!

The Eucalyptus regnans – called Swamp Gums in Tasmania or Mountain Ash in mainland Australia – are renowned for reaching phenomenal heights in high rainfall areas with good soil.  They are the fastest growing trees by far – up to five times faster than its competitor, the Californian Redwood!

According to the Guiness Book of Records 1999 edition, the tallest tree ever measured was 132.6 metres and had once been more than 150 metres. I wonder if it was a Eucalyptus regnans that claimed that title, hmmm?

Centurion had signs of a broken stem high in its foliage, indicating it used to be taller. Obviously, the tallest trees in a forest are the most at risk of being hit by lightning.  When lightning strikes a tree, it microwaves the moisture in the timber, causing it to turn to steam instantly, expand and explode.  For most trees, this is a survivable injury if most of the trunk is undamaged, even if their former total height is somewhat diminished.

If you’re on the hunt for natural giants, both Tasmania and Victoria are home to some of the most impressive trees.  Who wants to join me for a climb?

The Oldest Tree

Onto our next record breaker – the Huon Pine.

Native to south-west Tasmania and nowhere else, this conifer pine is formally known as the Lagarostrobos franklinii.  With individual trees known to survive to 3000 years of age (and counting), the Huon is Australia’s oldest living tree family, and possibly one of the oldest living organisms on Earth.  Fossil records uncovered in 1995 within a boggy Tasmanian area were dated at 3,462 years!  Only the famous bristle-cone pine “Methuselah” in North America exceeds the Huon in age.

Easily killed by fire and sensitive to drought, they are restricted to cool, wet places, such as rainforests and river banks.

The high oil content in the timber of the Huon Pine endows it with incredible qualities, such as being insect-resistant, waterproof and ideal for sculpting boats and furniture.  A lucrative industry for this “green gold” was exploited by settlers in the early 1800s, with subsequent waves of logging in the 1930s and 70s. 

Unfortunately by the time logging of live Huon Pine trees was banned in the 1970s, ninety percent of Tasmania’s original stands had been impacted. It was agreed that it was neither sustainable nor prudent to cut down trees that were 1000+ years old. 

The likelihood of a next generation of Huon Pines is exceedingly low, due to their painfully slow growth – an average of only 1 millimetre in girth each year.

In January 2022, an undisturbed grove of ancient Huon pines was discovered by veteran conservationist Bob Brown.  This rare find was astonishing.  “I thought that all the Huon pine groves had been logged out, so it came as a magnificent surprise to find a valley with its groves intact,” he said. “The tops of these Huon pines stretched up above the rainforest, rising like castles in the morning mist. I thought nothing like that was left on Earth.”

The Most Fruitful Tree

In November 2021, Iraqi-Australian Hussam Al-Saraf was awarded a rare Guinness World Record for the most types of fruit on a single tree.

As a former refugee and a multiculturalism officer in a Victorian high school, Al-Saraf’s tree is a metaphor for a successful society that celebrates the fusion of different cultures.

Bearing five species and ten varieties of fruit, Al-Saraf’s tree features yellow and white nectarines, yellow and white peaches, apricots, almonds, cherries, peach cots, golden and red plums.

Grafting is a horticultural technique where tissues of plants are joined to continue their growth together.  In more simple terms, a wound is created on one of the plants, and the other is inserted into that wound so each plant’s tissues can grow together.

Al-Saraf perfected this technique after arriving in Australia in 2009.  “Grafting has been my favourite hobby since my school days in Iraq. It started with me while I studied ‘cultivating basics’ as part of the then school curriculum,” he explained to SBS Arabic24.  To pass the subject, each child had to implement a gardening project. “The project I initiated and implemented was to graft black and white figs into a single tree.”

When it was suggested to him to apply for a Guiness World Record, Al-Saraf attempted to graft seventeen different fruits onto one tree, with the winning ten surviving.  The award made headlines across the country and the world, with many describing his passion project as a “tree of peaceful coexistence.”

Record breaking trees

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