Top 3 Oldest, Tallest and Biggest Trees in the World

Have you ever asked yourself which trees are our planet’s oldest, tallest, and largest living things? Some of the most amazing trees have been around for many thousands of years, and others grow to such heights they are nearly touching the sky or have trunks that are so huge they are like natural skyscrapers. In this article, we will discuss the three oldest, tallest, and biggest tree species in the world based on scientific measurements. Let’s get ready to be blown away by the dinosaurs of plant kingdoms.

Top 3 Oldest, Tallest and Biggest Trees in the World

Oldest Trees

To estimate a tree’s age, researchers carefully analyze the growth rings on the thickened trunk. The ring-counting approach and the cross-dating method verify the trees’ exact age. In this case, the oldest trees on Earth are those that are living or fossilized and have the most rings.

1) Prometheus Bristlecone Pine - Up to 4,900+ Years Old

Prometheus
The stump of the Prometheus tree after being cut down, Credit: Wikimedia/Jrbouldin

In California’s arid and isolated desert mountains, you’ll find the twisted and ancient bristlecone pines—one of the oldest organisms of all time! Their rough and weather-battered look almost makes them look like they are from another planet. The most famous bristlecone pine, Prometheus, lived for more than 4,900 years until it was cut down in the 1960s, forever losing a living piece of history.

2) Methuselah Bristlecone Pine- 4,856 Years Old

Methuselah
Methuselah Tree, Credit; Wikimedia/Bradluke22

The world’s oldest living tree is another piece of bristlecone pine called “Methuselah,” which is over 4856 years old! This ancient and scraggly tree has been growing in California’s White Mountains at an altitude of over 5000 feet and in a harsh, dry environment for almost five millennia now. Scientists keep Methuselah’s exact location secret to protect it from potential vandalism.

3) Alerce Milenario/Gran Abuelo - 3,653 Years Old

Alerce Milenario
Alerce Milenario Tree, Credit: Wikimedia/Yiyo Zamorano

The oldest tree in South America from Alerce Costero National Park, Chile, is the “Alerce Milenario,” the third oldest known on Earth. This alerce tree, which is close to 180 feet (55 meters) tall and has an immense gnarled trunk, stands majestically above the forest. By applying an accurate tree ring dating method, scientists discovered this tree is over 3,653 years old, one of the oldest trees still living today. The Alerce Milenario is also nicknamed the “Gran Abuelo,” meaning “Great Grandfather” in Spanish.

Tallest Trees

Scientists can calculate a tree’s height by measuring the distance from its base to its highest point. Only alive and wholly unbroken trees are included in the biggest list.

1) Coast Redwoods - Up to 380.8 Feet (116 meters) Tall

Redwood
The Hyperion Tree, Credit: Wikimedia/National Park Service Digital Image Archives

The tallest trees in the world are the California coast redwoods. The world record holder is a single redwood dubbed “Hyperion,” measuring 380.8 feet (116 meters). Higher than a 30-story building, these gigantic redwoods thrive in foggy areas on the coast.

2) Himalayan Cypress - 336 Feet (102.3 meters) Tall

Cupressus
A Himalayan Cypress tree in Manali, India, Credit: Wikimedia/Steve Hicks

In the summer of 2023, a group of researchers found the giant Himalayan cypress tree at the Yarlung Zangbo National Nature Reserve in Tibet, China. This tree is the tallest known tree in Asia, reaching 336 feet (102.3 meters) in height! This species has a skinny trunk and only a few branches, which help it to grow tall and go for the sunlight above the branch of the forest canopy.

3) Australian Mountain Ash - 330 Feet (100.5 meters) Tall

Centurion tree
The Centurion Tree, Credit; Wikimedia/Eucalyptus 99

The tallest hardwood trees are the Australian mountain ash species. One mountain ash named “Centurion” stretches around 330 feet (100.5 meters) high in Tasmania’s Arve Valley forests, among some of the tallest flowering plants.

Largest Trees by Volume

The biggest trees on Earth are determined by having the largest total wood volume in the trunk or main stem. This refers to the trunk and branches and not the roots. Measuring the trunk volume with an approximate level of accuracy is an incredibly complicated process.

1) Giant Sequoia - 52,500 Cubic Feet (1,487 Cubic meters)

The General Sherman tree
The General Sherman Tree, Credit: Wikimedia/m01229

In terms of total mass, the most massive single tree is General Sherman, a giant sequoia located within the boundaries of Sequoia National Park in California. The rough estimate for the wood volume of its massive trunk is a whopping 52,500 cubic feet (1,487 cubic meters)! The trunk of this Sequoia has a huge diameter, about 16.3 feet (4.9 meters) across.

2) Coast Redwood - 38,300 Cubic Feet (1,084 Cubic meters)

Coast_redwood
A Coast Redwood Tree, Credit;Wikimedia/W. Bulach

Following the gigantic sequoias in size is the coastal redwood named Grogan’s Fault. The famous California redwood reportedly has 38,300 cubic feet (1,084 cubic meters) of wood in its trunk. While incredibly tall at over 300 feet (91 m), redwoods are also known for their thick, wide trunks.

3) Kauri Tree - 18,200 Cubic Feet (515 Cubic meters)

Kauri tree
The Tāne Mahuta Tree, Credit: Wikimedia/David Broad

In the rain forests of New Zealand lives the “Tāne Mahuta,” a giant kauri tree with around 18,200 cubic feet (515 cubic meters) of wood just in its trunk and branches. Also known as the “Lord of the Forest,” the 2000-year-old ancient kauri specimen is one of the tallest in the world at 170 feet (52 meters) and has a trunk diameter of 16 feet (4.91 meters).

For millennia, the mighty trees have remained in unimaginable places, from burning deserts to freezing mountain peaks where only a few other creatures could survive. The fantastic size and longevity of the Earth’s old and enormous trees remind us of the artistic diversity of life on Earth.   These outliving giant organisms will enlighten us that the incredible power of nature’s creations is that they always overcome difficult and harsh situations, no matter how long it takes.

References

The Prometheus Story – Great Basin National Park (U.S. National Park Service). (n.d.). https://www.nps.gov/grba/learn/historyculture/the-prometheus-story.htm

Pinus longaeva (Great Basin bristlecone pine) description – The Gymnosperm Database. (n.d.). https://www.conifers.org/pi/Pinus_longaeva.php

Lara, A., & Villalba, R. (1993, May 21). A 3620-Year Temperature Record from Fitzroya cupressoides Tree Rings in Southern South America. Science. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.260.5111.1104

Tallest tree living. (n.d.). Guinness World Records. https://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/tallest-tree-living

Research Feature | A PKU team’s trek to locate Asia’s tallest tree. (n.d.). https://newsen.pku.edu.cn/news_events/news/research/13432.html

Burgess, G. (2018, December 12). Tall tree Centurion passes 100-metre mark, creating milestone for Tasmanian wilderness. ABC News. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-12-12/new-milestone-for-australias-tallest-tree-centurion/10604588

The Largest Trees in the World – Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks (U.S. National Park Service). (n.d.). https://www.nps.gov/seki/learn/nature/largest-trees-in-world.htm

Sequoia sempervirens (coast redwood) description. (n.d.). https://www.conifers.org/cu/Sequoia.php

The New Zealand Tree Register. (n.d.). https://register.notabletrees.org.nz/tree/view/800#

Agathis australis (kauri) description. (n.d.). https://www.conifers.org/ar/Agathis_australis.php

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