It goes without saying that trees are a vital resource on planet earth, purifying air and water, as well as providing vital food, timber, and shelter. Some living specimens have even occupied the planet for many thousands of years. Little wonder then, that they are an enduring subject of fascination for so many of us. One of the most valuable archives for researching the trees of the United States is the non-profit organization American Forests, established in 1875, whose aim has been to reserve the sanctity of nature.
In 1940, they established the Champion Tree Program, in order to find the largest of each tree species across the United States. Their research has revealed the tallest trees across the United States, including the whopping giants in our list below, some of which have been given suitably heroic names.
1. Hyperion, 379 feet
Towering over all the other trees on the entire planet, the theatrically named Hyperion – meaning ‘The High One’ in Greek mythology – in Redwood National Park, California, is recognized at the time of writing as the tallest tree in the world. Its colossal height reaches a staggering 379 feet – so high, in fact, that it is impossible to see its top from ground level. The tree’s diameter is equally as impressive, stretching some 16 feet and 2.5 inches wide. This species of ‘sequoia sempervirens’, or ‘coastal redwood’, is estimated to be 600-800 years old, and is situated in a secret location within the Redwood Forest.
Hyperion’s precise location is a closely guarded secret, and visitors found to close to its perimeters face fines of up to $5000 and even six months in jail – these rules are a protective, preventative measure to stop this relic from being tampered with by tourists. Experts believe Hyperion has now reached its full height capacity; wood packer damage now means it is unlikely to grow any taller, which means another tree may well eventually take its place as the tallest tree in the United States, and perhaps the entire world.
2. Doerner Fir, Coos County, 327 feet
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Located on the eastern side of Coos County in Southwest Oregon, north of California’s Redwood National Park, Doerner Fir is the third tallest tree in the world. It is also the second tallest tree in the United States, and the tallest ‘douglas fir tree’ in the world, making it a natural wonder of great historical significance. Doerner Fir exists in a stretch of forestry owned today by Coos County of Land Management which was once a lush area of dense trees, but the majority were felled during a frenetic period of logging last century, making it one of the last of its kind. Discovered in 1989, Doerner Fir is thought to be 400-500 years old. The area is still to be thoroughly studied, meaning there may be more trees of great importance here that we don’t know about yet.
3. Raven’s Tower, 317 feet
At 317 feet high, Raven’s Tower in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, California is one of the tallest trees in the entire United States. A stunning example of the coniferous evergreen ‘picea sitchensis’, or ‘sitka spruce’, this colossal giant is closely protected from vandals and visitors by local environmentalists, who keep its precise location top secret. Raven’s Tower is just one of many named trees within this forest which hold similarly epic proportions, including the Cathedral Trees, The Big Tree and the Corkscrew Redwood. However, none of them have reached the same sky-scraping heights as Raven’s Tower.
4. Unnamed Giant Sequoia, 314 feet
California is widely known for its ‘sequoiadendron giganteum’, or ‘giant sequoias’, which are among the oldest trees in the world. One, in particular, which has yet to be named, was measured at 314 feet high, located deep within the Sequoia National Forest in amongst a dense thicket of similarly monumental trees.
5. Noble Fir, Washington, 295 Feet
The ‘noble fir tree’ or ‘abies procera’, is known for its large proportions, often reaching at least 200 feet tall. They are typically native to the Cascade and Pacific Coast Ranges of the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. One particularly tall noble fir tree was measured at approximately 295 feet high, set within the Goat Marsh Research Natural Area in Washington.
By Rosie LessoManaging Editor & CuratorRosie has produced writing for a wide range of arts organizations including Tate Modern, The National Galleries of Scotland, Art Monthly and Scottish Art News. She holds an MA in Contemporary Art Theory from the University of Edinburgh and a BA in Fine Art from Edinburgh College of Art. Previously she has worked in both curatorial and educational roles, discovering how stories and history can enrich our experience of art.