Araucaria hunsteinii, Papua New Guinea

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#1)  Araucaria hunsteinii, Papua New Guinea

Postby KoutaR » Fri May 31, 2013 6:47 am


After reading Darrin’s and Ed’s discussion about the tallest tropical trees (viewtopic.php?f=48&t=5186), I got the idea of doing a literature study about Araucaria hunsteinii (klinki pine), which is the tallest tropical tree in Ed’s table (from “The Tropical Rain Forest an Ecological Study” by Richards).

Gray’s paper (1975) is very interesting. Most importantly, the height of 88.9 m is a tape-drop measurement! Direct quotation from Gray (1975, p. 276):

The tallest A. hunsteinii [in Gray’s study, see below] was 78.7 m, which is a good deal less than the recorded maximum (88.9 m) which was measured in 1941 by a climber carrying a steel tape to the top (L. G. Cavanaugh, personal communication, 1974).

Gray conducted his own study in eight 50 x 50 m plots in the same Bulolo area but a considerable proportion of the Araucaria forests in the area had been harvested before the study. Womersley & McAdam (see below) wrote already in 1957: “The natural stands of the Bulolo Valley are being replaced with plantations of the same species”. Thus, it appears that the tallest trees were gone long since. In Gray’s study the trees were felled and measured lying on the ground.

In Gray’s paper there is a table showing the tallest reported heights: 5 records are at least 85 meters. However, some of them appear to be rounded estimations rather than measurements (this is also Gray’s opinion). Of the cited references, I got my hands on the following two:

- Havel, J. J. (1971): The Araucaria forests of New Guinea and their regenerative capacity. J. Ecol. 59, 203-14.
- Womersley & McAdam (1957): The forests and forest conditions in the territories of Papua and New Guinea.

According to Havel: “Araucarias of all sizes from seedlings to veterans 280 ft (85 m) tall are common [in a forest type].” Thus, likely only an estimation.

From Womersley & McAdam’s species description: “… a Klinki Pine to 280 feet in height has been measured.” He gives no description of the method.

I propose we accept the 88.9-m Araucaria hunsteinii as the all-time height record for tropical trees, as it is tape-drop measured. If we reject it only because it is over 70 years old, do we then accept that serious tree measurers in 2085 reject our measurements only because of their age?


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#2)  Re: Araucaria hunsteinii, Papua New Guinea

Postby edfrank » Fri May 31, 2013 3:05 pm


I would be in favor of accepting the measurement as tape drops are one of the acceptable measurement methods we talk about.  The big problem with many of the older measurements reported is that we do not know how they were measured, or the reliability of the source.  I believe many of the exceptionally tall white pines reported from the 1800's are simply tall tales among lumbermen, just numbers thrown out there without any supporting information about how the heights were measured.

"I love science and it pains me to think that so many are terrified of the subject or feel that choosing science means you cannot also choose compassion, or the arts, or be awe by nature. Science is not meant to cure us of mystery, but to reinvent and revigorate it." by Robert M. Sapolsky
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#3)  Re: Araucaria hunsteinii, Papua New Guinea

Postby dbhguru » Fri May 31, 2013 5:25 pm


 I support your interpretation of those early numbers. I am extremely skeptical of their accuracies. I've heard them boast about 300-foot tall pines in Michigan's original white pine forests - the tall tree equivalent of big fish stories.

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#4)  Re: Araucaria hunsteinii, Papua New Guinea

Postby tsharp » Sat Jun 01, 2013 1:04 pm

Kouta: I think that it is an acceptable measurement.
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