World’s tallest tropical tree in Sabah beaten by another gargantuan meranti in state

Yellow meranti are sought after by logging firms as its timber was in demand for use in concrete-pouring moulds or as cheap plywood. — AFP pic
Yellow meranti are sought after by logging firms as its timber was in demand for use in concrete-pouring moulds or as cheap plywood. — AFP pic

KUALA LUMPUR, April 5 — The giant yellow meranti trees recently discovered in Sabah appear locked in competition after a 100.8-metre colossus was found in the state, beating out what was thought to be the world’s tallest tropical tree, a 94.1m specimen of the same species, identified last year.

According to the National Geographic, a team including Oxford University, Nottingham University and the South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership were responsible for the discovery of this natural wonder, the first tropical tree to break the 100m mark anywhere in the world.

For scale, the specimen’s height is the equivalent of a typical football pitch and would take world record sprinter Usain Bolt at least 9.58 seconds to cover at maximum acceleration.

It also weighs 81.5 tonnes or more than a fully-loaded Boeing 737-800.

The giant yellow meranti trees are so large that they contain their own ecosystems consisting of over 1,000 types of insects, fungi, and plants.

National Geographic posited that even taller examples of the yellow meranti were still waiting to be discovered in Sabah’s Danum Valley where they were growing in abundant groves due to the legal protection granted to the area and highly-endangered species.

Yellow meranti are sought after by logging firms as its timber was in demand for use in concrete-pouring moulds or as cheap plywood.

The joint-team first discovered the yellow meranti via aerial laser scanning in 2018 but the actual verification was significantly more rudimentary: someone had to climb the wooden giants with a measuring tape to confirm their heights.

The honour of measuring this specific example was given to Sabahan Unding Jami who climbed it on January 9 this year.

“It took me 15 attempts to shoot that line 86 metres (282 feet) up to the lowermost branches. Honestly, I almost gave up.

“We were so lucky to be able to finally shoot the rope over the lower branch,” Unding told National Geographic.

He described the attempts as difficult and made more challenging by the bees, wasps, snakes and other potentially dangerous creatures that might be encountered on the way up.

The distance between the ground and the tree top was such that verbal communication was also no longer possible and team members must communicate via text messaging, he added.

“After we measured it I couldn’t sleep for the whole night,” Unding added.

Despite their height, the yellow meranti are still not the tallest trees in the world. The accolade rests with the California redwood, some of which have been recorded at 115.7 m tall.

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