Page 1 of 3

Tall European trees

Posted: Fri Mar 26, 2010 10:12 am
by KoutaR

I just read a paper by Holeksa et al. (2009). They measured in a small (55 ha = 136 acres) Slovakian reserve Hrončokovský grúň the tallest or the almost tallest known specimens of some European native broadleaf trees:

Fraxinus excelsior (European ash) up to 49 metres (=161 ft)
Fagus sylvatica (European beech) up to 47 m (=154 ft)
Acer pseudoplatanus (sycamore maple) up to 45 m (148 ft)
Ulmus glabra (Wych elm) up to 41 m (134 ft)

About the used methodology, they write: "... we measured... height with the accuracy of 0.5 m (Haglöf Vertex III Ultrasonic Hypsometer)". My question to ENTS measuring gurus: How accurate is that hypsometer?

A taller Fraxinus excelsior has been reported by Waldherr (2002) in Germany (49.8 m = 163 ft). He does not give the used method. A taller Fagus sylvatica has been reported by Korpel' (1995) in Havešová reserve in Slovakia (49 m = 161 ft). He does not give the used method. Jeroen Philippona writes in his web site there are tape drop measured Fagus trees 49 m tall in Germany and France. Perhaps Jeroen can tell more.

In Holeksa et al. (2009), there is a table summarizing many of the tallest known specimens by species. There are numerous reported Picea abies (Norway spruce) and Abies alba (European silver fir) trees about 60 metres tall, tallest being an Abies alba 65 m (213 ft) tall reported by Leibundgut (1976). There are also some recent measurements, like a 61.8 m (203 ft) tall Picea abies in Slovenia measured in 2006 by Čoderl and reported by Habič (2006). However, none of these reports tells which method or equipment they used.

The documentation of tall trees in Europe seems to be light-years behind US. And it looks like the further east one advances the poorer is the documentation and the higher is the possibility to find new champions. In Caucasus region, Abies nordmanniana (Nordmann fir) is said to become even 85 m (279 ft) tall, but nothing more accurate can be found.


Habič, E. (2006): Sistem vrednotenja, ohranjanja in varstva izjemnih dreves v sloveniji. Magistrsko delo, Ljubljana. ... _spela.pdf

Holeksa, J. et al. (2009): A giant tree stand in the West Carpathians—An exception or a relic of formerly widespread mountain European forests? Forest Ecology and Management 257, 1577–1585.

Korpel', Š. (1995): Die Urwälder der Westkarpaten. Gustav Fischer Verlag.

Leibundgut, H. (1976): Die grössten Fichten und Tannen. Schweiz. Zeit. Forstw. 127, 427.

Waldherr, M. (2002): Der Eschen-Eichen-Bestand in Wipfelsfurt bei Kelheim. In: Kölbel, M. (ed.), Beiträge zur Esche - Fachtagung zum Baum des Jahres 2001, Bayerische Landesanstalt für Wald und Forstwirtschaft. pp. 75–81. ... sen_34.pdf

Jeroen Philippona's site:

Re: Tall European trees

Posted: Fri Mar 26, 2010 3:21 pm
by Larry Tucei
Kouta, I'll let Bob Leverett and others touch on the accuracy of the Hypsometer. Bob Van Pelt used one I can't recall the namebrand but it was super accurate. Larry

Re: Tall European trees

Posted: Fri Mar 26, 2010 5:48 pm
by James Parton

If my memory is right, BVP uses an Impulse laser.


Re: Tall European trees

Posted: Fri Mar 26, 2010 10:56 pm
by edfrank

I am not familiar with this particular instrument. I looked up the specifications What really struck me first was a question of how well the instrument will resolve small objects at a distance, or how well it would see through clutter in the foreground. With the laser you have a coherent light beam that has minimal spread in the measuring range. This instrument uses an ultrasonic beam - which must have a much wider spread. The accuracy numbers for distance measurement and tilt angle look good, but I don't see how it could possibly resolve a a small target. It says it has cross-hairs in the sight, but how would that help? Then I saw that it has a transponder that must be fastened on the target to get an accurate measurement

Look at the methodology diagrammed in the brochure. It show the transponder fastened to the tree near its base. The calculations are based upon the assumption that the horizontal distance to this point on the base of the tree is measured with the transponder, and then the heights are calculated by measuring the angle to the point being measured. The height therefore is the tangent of the angle to the point on the tree x horizontal distance to the base. Unless the top is exactly over the base of the tree, this will always give a false height reading by the amount of tan(a) x horizontal offset of the top of the tree in the direction of the measurer, where (a) is the angle of measurement. For conifers an offset of 2 meters is about average for most of the trees we have measured here. If you assume this is the average offset in the direction of measurement, then at a measurement angle of 60 degrees the error would be 3.46 meters. Fore trees with damaged or broken tops, almost every time the offset is higher. For broad leaf trees the average offset is 2 to 3 times that of conifers.

As I see it: 1) the instrument can't resolve a small target independent of it transponder, 2) the methodology is using a tangent method for calculations which will give bad results.

I can see the utility of the instrument for determine the outlines of sampling plots, but the tree height results obtained by this instrument using this methodology are not reliable to within 2 to several meters. A laser and clinometer, or a Nikon laser hypsometer that does the sin + sin measurement calculations are really the only way to go if you want good results without spending a few thousand American dollars on instruments. This instrument should be given a pass when looking to purchase a reliable instrument to measure trees, and results obtained by it should be considered to be exaggerated by some unacceptably large amount.

I hope to see you and others from Europe posting here more in the future.

Ed Frank

Re: Tall European trees

Posted: Sat Mar 27, 2010 5:24 am
by KoutaR

Thanks for explaining the measuring methodology of the equipment. Thus, if the tree is leaning to the direction of the measurer, the equipment exaggerates heights; if it's leaning to the opposite direction, the heights are too low. And so the probablility, that the top values are exaggerated, is high. I find it incredible that all over the world height champions are measured and reported in scientific papers with false methodologies. Still today!

Ed, you wrote "...without spending a few thousand American dollars on instruments". What kind of instruments are those best available ones?"

I will e-mail Mr. Holeksa, if he would like to comment this discussion.


Re: Tall European trees

Posted: Sat Mar 27, 2010 7:18 am
by James Parton

In my guess the TruPulse 360 and the Impulse laser are top higher-end ones here. But many ENTS prefer the much cheaper Nikon 440 with a Suunto clinometer. Will prefers the 440 over the more complex lasers. It's ability to shoot through twigs is outstanding. The Nikon 550 series has replaced the 440 and does not shoot through foreground twigs as well. I am sure Bob, Ed or Will could add to this conversation. Or correct me......

I am currently heading out to Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest to re-measure a great pine and find a chestnut rampick reported by Ranger Dan a little while back.


Re: Tall European trees

Posted: Sat Mar 27, 2010 8:13 am
by dbhguru

You can take most tall tree reports in the U.S., Europe, or elsewhere with a grain of salt. No, better yet with a ton of salt. Unless the measurers take time to explain how they avoid the problems that have plagued tree height measuring through the decades, you must be suspicious that either: (1) they used the old, flawed techniques, or (2) used and instrument that purports to be highly accurate, but is internally calibrated to use the old tangent method. I have two such instruments. In the case of both, I can get around the built in routine. But there are other problems that plague the two expensive instruments that require that I revert to using a Nikon Prostaff 440 - an instrument that is no longer in production.

In the days of the Internet, any serious, reputable tree measurer is going to sooner or later discover the Eastern Native Tree Society, and in investigating the depth of the organization, stumble onto the many, many discussions of how error-prone tree height measuring is and set a course to avoid repeating past mistakes. When nothing is said in Internet posts or reports from others about methodology except that a particular instrument was used, you have to be suspicious. Very suspicious. Have the salt shaker handy.

A big part of the problem with obtaining accuracy in tree measuring on a broad front is what I frequently refer to as the turf issue. Traditionally the forestry profession dealt with tree measurements. Their methods were designed to achieve productivity in the field and were usually adequate for plantation conifers on fairly level ground, but those methods should have never, ever been applied to broad-crowned hardwoods or trees growing on slopes. But when challenged by outsiders, who are usually seen as amateurs in the pejorative sense of the word, the professionals circle the wagons. It is just human nature. It takes a long time to effect change and we're still very much in the process of doing that. What we have on our side now are consummate professionals like Robert Van Pelt, Don Bragg, and Lee Frelich to run interference for us within the professional circles. If you don't have accomplished PhDs behind you, you are going nowhere.

In the case of people on a different continent, the turf issue is elevated to a new level. We've long hoped that we could link up with tall tree enthusiasts from other countries. We certainly hope the measuring bug sooner or later will bite you. We'll get behind you. You can be guaranteed of that.


Re: Tall European trees

Posted: Sat Mar 27, 2010 11:11 am
by edfrank

I think you will find that the majority of the trees measured will have the offset in the general direction of the measurer simply because that is the direction most likely to give you the clearest shot at the top. Those trees that are leaning away will measure shorter that true, but these will be the exceptions.

Ed Frank

Re: Tall European trees

Posted: Sun Mar 28, 2010 5:52 pm
by DougBidlack

when I'm in Germany I'll be visiting Kelheim and the Weltenburger Enge with family. I'm hoping to measure the tall European ashes of this region. I found the same paper on the ashes of Germany online that you did and I'm trying to figure out the exact location of the tallest ash. It seems that it is about 2km upstream from Kelheim along the Danube River on the way to Weltenburg. One of the three trails going between these two towns is called the Donauroute and it is the only one that closely follows the Danube. I'm assuming that the Wipfelsfurt is the depression that was possibly caused by a meteor and that it lies along the Donauroute on the North side of the river. Does this sound correct to you?

If we can't figure out where these trees are located before we go to Germany we may try contacting Maximilian Waldherr. I guess he lives and works in Regensburg and is still the Forstdirektor.


Re: Tall European trees

Posted: Mon Mar 29, 2010 5:36 pm
by Jeroen Philippona

To evaluate the accuracy of the measurements of the Slovakian reserve Hrončokovský grúň whe should have to visit it with laser equipment. To measure hardwood / broadleaf trees in a forest its much easier to measure without leafs.
Personally I think some of these heights will be a bit exaggerated.

I've bought a Nikon Forestry 550 laser ranger last September, its working fine. Before that I did height measurement with a Suunto clinometer and a tape. Because I had contact for several years with ENTS I knew the problems with tangential measuring. So most of my Suunto measurements were rather good, but took a lot of time. The laser is much easier and more accurate. A friend of mine, Leo Goudzwaard, is working for the Forestry research group of Wageningen University (Netherlands). Till recently, he did height measuring with the Suunto clinometer as well as with a Digital Hypsometer Forestor Vertex, I think it is the same type as the Haglöf Vertex III Ultrasonic Hypsometer used by Holeksa et al.
When testing all methodes together it was easily seen that great mismeasurements could be made with the Hypsometer when one did not recognise the real horizontal distance to the measured top. Before Leo realised this, he made mismeasurements up to 12 %. This has been said many, many times by Robert Leverett, Will Blozan and others.
So, I think the measurements of Holeksa easily can be wrong for over 10 %.

Leo Goudzwaard now has bought also a Nikon Forestry laser ranger.

The measurements of Fraxinus excelsior reported by Waldherr probably have been done with a clinometer and also could be wrong for over 10%.

A Polish measurer, Thomasz Niechoda, has measured recently with Suunto clinometer Fraxinus excelsior of 45 - 46 m in Bialowieza, Poland. I have warned him for the risks of this kind of measurement. Till now he has measured maxima in Bialowieza of 48 to 50 m for Picea abies, 41 m for Quercus robur and 36 m for Tilia cordata. This seems to be trusted, so I think he measures as good as possible with this method.

About Fagus sylvatica: with the Nikon Forestry 550 I have measured hundreds of them in the Netherlands at many locations. Only at three places near Arnhem I found beeches of 42 to 43 m (138 - 141 ft). At the Middachten Estate there are still 2 beeches of 43 m (141 ft). In a lane cut in nov. 2005 I measured a fallen beech with a lenght of 44,25 m (145,18 ft). Next to it had stood a taller one, probably 2 m taller, what could be seen from outside the lane. It had been measured by Leo Goudzwaard with the Digital Hypsometer Forestor Vertex as 48,5 m (159,12 ft), but by the forestor of the estate with a clinometer as 46 m (150,9 ft). This seemed to be right. Another beech of 47,3 m (155,18 ft) has been measured a few years ago when blown over in the estate of Amelisweerd near Utrecht. I have doubts about this, the tallest beech I have measured in that forest with the Nikon is 40,5 m (132,87 ft).
A acquaintance of mine has climbed and tape-dropped a beech in eastern Germany (former GDR) of 49 m. This seems accurate, but it was done several years ago in a climbing competition and perhaps not with the greatest possible accuracy.

I updated the list for the Netherlands in April 2013. There are few substantial changes found in the three years since I posted this list. For the whole of Europe there have been found many more new record heights.

My own list of tallest trees in the Netherlands measured by Nikon Forestry 550 laser:
Scientific name - English name - records 2010 - Update 12-04-2013
Pseudotsuga menziesii - Douglas fir - 50,3 m (laser) - 49,75 m (climbing + tapedrop; lasermeasurement in 2010 was
without direct view of the base)
Fagus sylvatica - European beech - 43,0 m - 43,2 m
Picea abies - Norway spruce - 42,1 m - 42,1 m
Abies grandis - Grand fir - 42,0 m - 42,0 m
Populus x canadensis - Hybrid poplar - 41,2 m - 41,7 m
Quercus robur - English oak - 41,2 m - 41,8 m
Sequoiadendron gig. - Giant sequoia - 41,0 m - 41,5 m
Quercus rubra - N. red oak - 39,6 m - 39,6 m
Thuja plicata - Western red cedar - 39,4 m - 39,8 m
Populus x canescens - Grey poplar - 39,1 m - 39,1 m
Larix decidua - European Larch - 39,0 m - 40,0 m
Platanus x hispanica - London plane - 39,0 m - 39,0 m
Fraxinus excelsior - European white ash - 38,6 m - 39,5 m
Liriodendron tulipifera - Tulip tree - 38,0 m - 37,6 m
Acer pseudoplatanus - Sycamore maple - 37,0 m - 37,0 m
Aesculus hippocastanum - Horse chestnut - 36,0 m - 36,8 m
Tilia platyphyllos - Broadleafed lime - 35,2 m - 35,2 m
Ulmus glabra - Wych elm - 35,0 m - 35,0 m
Salix alba - white willow - 34,6 m - 34,6 m
Tilia x europea - common lime - 34,6 m - 36,8 m
Tilia tomentosa - silver lime - 34,4 m - 34,4 m
Taxodium distichum - swamp cypress - 34,0 m - 34,6 m
Tsuga heterophylla - western hemlock - 34,0 m - 34,5 m
Quercus cerris - Turkey oak - 34,0 m - 34,2 m
Juglans nigra - black walnut - 33,8 m - 35,2 m
Pinus sylvestris - Scots pine - 33,6 m - 33,6 m
Quercus petraea - Sessile oak - 33,5 m - 33,5 m
Quercus palustris - Pin oak - 33,0 m - 33,8 m
Platanus orientalis - oriental plane - 33,0 m - 33,0 m
Alnus glutinosa - common alder - 33,0 m - 33,0 m
Castanea sativa - European sweet chestnut - 33,0 m - 34,6 m
Quercus frainetto - Hungarian oak - 32,6 m - 32,6 m
Metasequoia glyptostr. - dawn redwood - 32,0 m - 32,8 m
Pinus nigra - black pine - 32,0 m - 34,8 m
Prunus avium - wild cherry - 31,6 m - 31,6 m
Acer platanoides - Norway maple - 30,2 m - 32,0 m
Betula pendula - silver birch - 30,0 m - 32,4 m
Cryptomeria japonica - Japanese red cedar - 30,0 m - 30,8 m
Carpinus betulus - common hornbeam - 29,0 m - 32,2 m

For some species these records will be very near the real maximum for Holland, for others not yet.

In the UK there are now done very accururate height measurements by the British Tree Register with laser and climbing with tape drop. In Germany some of these accurate measuring has also been done recently. Still I did not see accurate listings of Germany of the whole country for many species. Its sure in Germany many species will have taller individuals compared to Holland.

It should be nice if you could persuade Holeksa et al. to use laser equipment to meassure this forest.