Posted: Fri May 17, 2013 2:09 pm
by KoutaR

The 46.8-meter European beech (Fagus sylvatica) in Kleinengelein (report: viewtopic.php?f=198&t=5354) held the „beech height record“-title less than two weeks. Only three and half hours after I posted the report on the NTS-BBS, I got an e-mail from Karlheinz’ smartphone. He had found by chance a 47.2-meter (155-ft) beech in Gründau, German state of Hesse, east of Frankfurt. Only a few hours later, he reported he had found a beech that he believed to be over 49 m tall, 200 m (650 ft) from the 47.2-m beech. He also asked if I could come to verify his measurement. I got this latter e-mail only next noon. I called him; yes, he was still there and would wait if I decided to come. The location is 370 km (230 mi) from my home, beyond the limit I have decided to drive for measuring a single tree. In addition, I fully trust Karlheinz’ measurements. But this tree was a new record for not only beech but for any European native broadleaf tree, a good reason for making an exception! Luckily I had the day off and my wife said yes, you can go. So I hurried to Hesse driving 160 km/h (100 mph, a speed rather average on German highways but rather high for my car) to see, photograph and measure the beech.

I met Karlheinz in a nearby village from where he led me to the super-grove. It was located in a west-east oriented valley at an elevation of 200 m (650 ft). First we came to the 47.2-m beech. It was incredibly thin, the CBH being only 176 cm (69.3 in).


Kouta measuring 47.2-meter beech. Photo by Karlheinz.

The place clearly had some exceptional qualities. At least the beeches were well watered growing on the very bottom of the valley. The neighbouring beech looked tall, too. It turned out to be 46.6 m (153 ft) tall, as tall as the second tallest beech in Kleinengelein. Another, thicker, neighbour had been felled and ashes (Fraxinus excelsior) had been planted in its place. This was clearly far from virgin forest.


47.2-meter beech, center, and 46,6-meter beech, right. Photo by Karlheinz, edited by Kouta.

We began to walk towards the new record along a logging road. The whole valley bottom was full of tall beeches but we were unable to measure most of them because they already had leaves. But the new record tree grew at the edge of a gap. Nevertheless, measuring was not easy because the base was hidden behind beech saplings although we used Karlheinz’ 7.5-meter (25-ft) pole at the base. We found one place where both the tree top and the pole top were visible, but the place was a bit too far from the tree thus decreasing accuracy. My result was 42.2 meters to the pole top. The pole base was 0.2 m below the average ground level, thus the tree height would be 49.5 m. What a beech!


New record beech. The arrow shows the highest twig. The top of the pole is 7.3 meters above the average ground level. Enlarge the photo to see the pole!

But we were not completely satisfied due to the long measuring distance. At good measuring distance, there was a place where the top was clearly visible but not the pole. Fortunately, Karlheinz has Leica Disto D8. We measured the vertical distance from the top to a reference point on another trunk with Nikon 550A S. Then Karlheinz measured the vertical distance from the reference point to the pole with Disto. Disto gives accurate distances to the nearest centimetre, so using a reference point did not decrease the accuracy. We consider this measurement more accurate than the one from the longer distance. The result was 49.3 m (162 ft). This tree was thick, CBH being 338 cm (133 in), so thick that it had likely been protected by foresters.


Karlheinz, Kouta and 49.3-meter beech.

I then had to drive the 370 km back home. Thus, I drove 740 km in one day for a few trees!

Afterwards Karlheinz contacted foresters and got some information about the stand. He also contacted a local newspaper, which wrote a short article about the beeches and him.

It was known that these beeches are extremely tall but they had never been accurately measured. The forestry office does not want to attract the public to their forest and has therefore kept a low profile. The stand is not officially protected but it has been decided that the tall beeches will not be felled, only sick and damaged trees are removed. There was some wind damage in 2011. The tall beeches are estimated to be 100-200 years old. The soil is very fertile brown earth formed from thick loess. The watering is optimal year-round: water is flowing from every direction and drains optimally away. The annual rainfall is 700–800 mm.

A new measuring trip should be made when the beeches are leafless to find out if there are even taller trees.


EDIT 2017: The tallest European native broadleaf tree is now a 50.6-meter ash (Fraxinus excelsior). ... eim/31994/