Scientists have officially discovered the world’s tallest tree after three years of preparation, five trips, and a two-week trip through the dense Amazon rainforest. The lofty creature climbs as high as a 25-story building.
The behemoth of a tree, whose top protrudes out high above the canopy in the Iratapuru River Nature Reserve in northern Brazil, is an Angelim Vermelho. It measures 290 feet tall and 32 feet around. According to scientists, it’s the largest tree ever identified in the Amazon.
Researchers first spotted the giant tree in satellite images in 2019 during a 3D mapping project.
Later that year, a team of academics, environmentalists, and local guides planned an expedition to find its location. However, after a 10-day journey through rugged terrain, fatigued, and a sick team member, they had to turn around.
Other expeditions to the remote region were able to survey other gigantic trees, including the tallest Brazil nut tree ever recorded in the Amazon. The nut tree was recorded at over 200 feet.
However, the towering Angelim Vermelho was still on the list to find until the September 12-25 expedition. During the trip, researchers traversed 155 miles by boat up winding rivers with dangerous rapids. In addition, they had to hike another 12 miles on foot across treacherous jungle terrain to finally see it in person.
Sadly, a poisonous spider bit one team member on the 19-person expedition. However, it would pay off in the end, according to forest engineer Diego Armando Silva of Amapa Federal University. Silva helped facilitate the trip.
Scientists discover tallest tree in Amazon, hope it will add to environmental research
“It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Just divine,” he said following the discovery.
He added: “You’re in the middle of this forest where humankind has never set foot before, with absolutely exuberant nature.”
After they spent the night under the massive tree, the group collected leaves, soil, and other samples. Those sample items will now be studied to get answers to questions like the age of the tree, which Silva estimates it’s at least 400 to 600 years. In addition, they hope to learn why the area has so many giant trees, and how much carbon they hold.
Per Silva, in this part of the world, the massive trees can weigh up to 400,000 tons, around half of which is carbon absorbed from the atmosphere.
Regardless of its remoteness, these giants are in danger. According to reports, Angelim Vermelho wood is sought after by loggers. In addition, illegal gold miners are going into the Iratapuru reserve, says Jakeline Pereira of the environmental group Imazon, which helped plan the trip.
“We were so thrilled to make this find,” says Pereira. “It’s super important at a time when the Amazon is facing such frightening levels of deforestation.”
In the last three years, yearly deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has increased 75 percent from the last decade.