Found: The Tallest Tree in the Amazon

The tallest known tree in the Amazon rainforest is taller than most buildings in your city.

Much taller.

Researchers found the towering specimen in northern Brazil’s Iratapuru River Nature Reserve. The tree, an angelim vermelho (scientific name: Dinizia excelsa), stands as tall as a 25-storey building. It’s 88.5m tall and 9.9m around, the researchers told Phys.org.

Forest engineer Diego Armando Silva of Amapa Federal University helped organize the expeditions that eventually led to the discovery. The project started in 2019 when the team came across satellite images of the tree.

According to Silva, they didn’t measure up to the real thing.

“It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Just divine,” he told Agence France Presse. “You’re in the middle of this forest where humankind has never set foot before, with absolutely exuberant nature.”

tallest tree in amazon

At the base of the 88.5m angelim vermelho.

 

Every member on the research team had to earn their way into the experience. The final expedition took 13 days in mid-September, covering 250km of rivers and another 20 km on foot across virginal, mountainous jungle.

Spider bites and jungle bushwhacking

That came after the first expedition to reach the specimen didn’t make it at all, according to Phys.org. Arduous bushwacking, waning supplies, and the threat of disease turned them back. Even this year, one expedition member contracted a bite from what the team doctor believed was a poisonous spider.

Once the groups reached the forest giant, it camped and started collecting samples to estimate its age. Silva thinks it’s 400 to 600 years old. Other impressive trees grow in the same grove, and the team’s other objectives include finding out why they grow so tall in this area specifically, and how much carbon they store.

Meanwhile, logging threatens the stand and the big carbon sink it provides. Jakeline Pereira of the environmental group Imazon helped organize the expedition. She said that loggers prize angelim vermelho, and that illegal gold miners could harm the area’s trees as well.

“We were so thrilled to make this find,” she said. “It’s super important at a time when the Amazon is facing such frightening levels of deforestation.”

The world’s tallest living tree is the 115m Hyperion, in the California Redwoods. The U.S. National Park Service recently criminalized visiting it. And the oldest known tree, Chile’s Alerce Milenario, could be the oldest living organism on the planet.