Malaysia is home to the tallest tropical tree in the world

Credit:The tallest tropical tree in the world seen from below. Credits : Unding Jami / University of Oxford

The tallest tree in the world has recently been identified in the Danum valley, in the Malaysian part of Borneo island.  The giant tree measures more than 100 metres tall. 

Shorea, yellow meranti (Shorea faguetiana) is the tallest tropical tree in the world – and is probably the tallest flowering plant as well. This tree species belongs to the family Dipterocarpaceae and can be found in Borneo on the Malaysian peninsula.  Nicknamed “Menara” which is Malaysian for “tower” , the giant tree was spotted for the first time in 2018 by a team of researchers using an airborne remote sensing laser system.  Put simply, an aircraft flies over the forest canopy and then sends laser beams. These beams are then reflected when they touch the forest canopy and floor, allowing researchers to estimate the forest’s topology.

Measuring just over 100 metres tall….

Once the tree was identified in January last year, Unding Jami a local climber from the South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership climbed the tree to measure the exact height.  Using a tape measure he discovered the tree measured 100.8 metres high.  As a point of comparison, this is about the same size as a classic football pitch.  “Menara” is estimated to weigh about 81.5 tonnes and that doesn’t include the tree’s roots.  This is about the same mass as a Boeing 737-800 when it takes off.

tallest tree
Menara is tallest recorded tropical tree. Credits: Alexander Shenkin

The tree trunk is very straight and, according to the study, has a mass centre about 28 metres from the ground and only 0.6 metres from it’s central vertical axis.  The tree is therefore very symmetrical and well balanced despite the fact it is planted on vertical ground.  Despite it’s slight vulnerability to winds it is still very stable.  This is predominantly due to the fact the tree is planted in a fairly sheltered area.

The tree has probably reached such extreme heights due to its protected position in the valley“, explains Alexander Shenkin from the University of Oxford who took part in the research.  “There may well be even taller trees, but given the evidence we have found on the mechanical stress caused by the wind, it is unlikely to be the case. “

Researchers hope that the discovery of this remarkable tree might help to boost extra conservation efforts to protect these magnificent rainforests and their rich biodiversity.


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