Robert Van Pelt

Robert Van Pelt is an Affiliate Professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he has lived since the mid-1980s. He has extensively studied old-growth forests across North America, particularly in California and the Pacific Northwest. Since the 1990s, he has been involved in canopy research – learning about the structure and physiology of the world’s tallest trees – California redwoods, Douglas fir, Sitka spruce and Eucalypts in Australia. Always fascinated with facts and figures, his passion for trees led him to start the Washington Big Tree Program in 1986, which keeps records on the largest of each species of tree in the state, at which time he become the state co-ordinator for the National Big Tree Program. This ultimately led Robert to write Forest Giants of the Pacific Coast (2001), which chronicles in detail the largest individual trees in western North America, including precise, pen and ink illustrations of each tree.

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Tallest living tree

The tallest tree currently living is a specimen of Sequoia sempervirens in Redwood National Park in California, USA. Nicknamed Hyperion, the coast redwood was discovered by Chris Atkins and Michael Taylor (both USA) on 25 Aug 2006 and its precise location is kept a closely guarded secret to try and protect it. By climbing and with direct tape-drop, the 2006 height was 115.55 m (379 ft 1.2 in), which was the average between the low and high sides of the tree as it grows on a slope. By 2019, the height had grown to 116.07 m (380 ft 9.7 in). The tree, which has a diameter of 4.94 m (16 ft 2.5 in) and an estimated aboveground dry mass of 209 metric tonnes (230 US tons), also has the distinction of having the world’s deepest crown (from the top of the tree to where the foliage begins), at 90.9 m (298 ft 2.7 in).