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eNTS Magazine: January - June 2011

eNTS: The Magazine of the Native Tree Society

This magazine is published monthly and contain materials that are compiled from posts made to the NTS BBS It features notable trip reports, site descriptions and essays posted to the BBS by NTS members. The purpose of the magazine to have an easily readable and distributable magazine of posts available for download for those interested in the Native Tree Society and in the work that is being conducted by its members.

This magazine serves as a companion to the more formal science-oriented Bulletin of the Eastern Native Tree Society and will help the group reach potential new members. To submit materials for inclusion in the next issue, post to the BBS. Members are welcome to suggest specific articles that you might want to see included in future issues of the magazine, or point out materials that were left from a particular month’s compilation that should have been included. Older articles can always be added as necessary to the magazine. The magazine will focus on the first post on a subject and provide a link to the discussion on the website. Where warranted later posts in a thread may also be selected for inclusion.

Edward Frank, Editor-in-Chief


NTS_January 2011.pdf 12 MB

NTS_February 2011.pdf 8.5 MB

NTS_March2011.pdf 4.2 MB

NTS_April2011.pdf 6 MB

NTS_May2011.pdf 9.5 MB

NTS_June2011.pdf 8.9 MB

by edfrank
Mon Jul 25, 2011 3:59 pm
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Highest Leaf Now 379.46 ft. Another Redwood Breaches 370 ft.

Hyperion was measured last week by Dr. Steven Sillett with direct tape drop. Result was 155.66 meters, or 379.46 feet. The top is growing slowly, but steadily and has an excellent supporting base. See picture.

Another coast redwood in Redwood National Park, National Geographic Society Tree, AKA Nugget, has just been measured by Dr. Sillett by direct tape drop at 113.05 meter, or 370.89 feet. The top of this tree is vigorous and currently growing nearly 1 feet per year.

See attached pictures from Dr. Sillett.

For those die-hards that manage to find Hyperion, please be careful not to trample the soil around the base. The tree's top is already on the ragged edge of existence and any addtional stresses to its plumbing system could potentially kill the top leader. The best chance for Hyperion to reach 380' is if the tree is admired from afar.

Michael Taylor

AFA California Big Trees Coordinator
by M.W.Taylor
Wed Sep 21, 2011 4:10 pm
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Confirmed: Eldorado ponderosa largest by volume

Bob Van Pelt has just measured the "Ruby Tree", the new AFA co-champion ponderosa in Eldorado National Forest, Sierra Nevada Range. Site altitude 5,300 feet.

His volume estimate is an astounding 5,398 cubic feet !

This would make the Eldorado National Forest ponderosa larger than even some of the biggest recorded sugar pines like Yosemite Giant which as 9.2' dbh, 269' tall and 5,390 cubic feet of trunk volume.

Bob says he was blown away by this tree. He has seen no other ponderosa with such a gigantic lower trunk.

No other ponderosa he has seen measures up to this one...except maybe the old AFA champion in Shasta-Trinity National Forest which grows in the Klamath intermediate ranges with different climate and soils. Site altitude at the champion Trinity ponderosa is about 4,400ft. I recently calculated the volume of the giant Trinity ponderosa at 5,240 cubic feet, a close rival to the Eldorado tree. I am curious what Bob Van Pelt gets for the Trinity giant ponderosa. Will keep the forum updated if he gets around to measuring it.

Bob's relaskop and lower trunk tape wrap diameters are as follows:

Height Diameter
0 9.06
2.62 8.63
4.59 8.37
8.20 8.07
16.40 7.87
32.81 7.51
49.21 7.021
65.62 6.63
82.02 6.20
98.43 5.77
114.83 5.28
131.23 4.79
164.04 3.77
196.85 2.33
213.25 1.21
231.30 0

Total Volume 5,398 cubic feet

Over 8' thick at 8' above ground and over 7' thick at 50' above the ground. Arguably, another 4ft could be added to the height interval figures because these were taken at the top of the 4ft debris pile that surrounds the tree.

This giant ponderosa pine is a real spanker !

Michael Taylor
by M.W.Taylor
Sun Aug 21, 2011 12:57 pm
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West Virginia Big Tree Register

NTS: Two years ago I offered to help update the WV Big Tree Register which had been moribund for about 10 years. The WV Division of Forestry was very agreeable. With a lot of good ideas from the NTS board and Scott Wade's PA list I listed several goals to shoot for when updating the Register.

1. The Register should be online. Finally happened in summer of 2011.
2. All Multi-stem trees should be identified as such.
3. Any circumference not taken at the standard 4 1/2' mid slope height should be clearly indicated.
4. The register must indicate how the height measurement was made.
5. Include the three biggest point total trees in the register but also to include the largest circumference, tallest height, and widest spread. ie basically a maximum dimension list.
6. Update the register annually with the biggest point total tree reinspected within 5 years and the others within 10.
I introduced six district foresters to the sine based method of height determination with a clinometer and laser range finder and they did the bulk of the inspections and we probably got through 90 percent of the database in 2 years.

The results may be found here:


I will be involved for at least another year and intend to push for a better information on the website especially as it pertains to access/location. At present we only list the tree location to county and nearest town.

I value any comments on how the WV Big Tree Register is presented any any improvements that can be made.

Turner Sharp
by tsharp
Wed Dec 14, 2011 8:52 pm
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Georgia canopy heights from LiDAR

In terms of tree heights, North Georgia has long taken a back seat to the mountains of western North Carolina, eastern Tennessee, and northwestern South Carolina. Out of dozens of overstory species that reach their maximum height in the southern Appalachians, the Georgia mountains support the height records for only four species, and three of those are pines growing in the Chattooga River watershed. That lack of records has endured despite extensive searching, rainfall comparable to more record rich regions of the Southern Appalachians, and long growing seasons. However, that pattern is poised to change thanks to LiDAR.

LiDAR data is currently available for only about half of north Georgia’s mountains, but a plethora of extremely promising sites are already apparent. LiDAR indicates literally hundreds of groves with trees over 150’, and 160’s are common in some watersheds. Many of these areas have been little or not at all previously searched, but others are known tall tree sites. Many of the latter appear more extensive or have a wider range of productive habitat types than previously thought.

The apparent lack of tall trees in Georgia was partly a product of the types of sites that are most productive in Georgia. Coves dominated by a mix of tall hardwoods, by far the most abundant and productive tall tree sites in western North Carolina, are relatively predictable based on topography and the records of uncommon rich site species. Georgia has few cove forests that are the same caliber as those found in western North Carolina in terms of productivity. Instead, LiDAR indicates Georgia has an abundance of sites where white pine grows well. Such sites are less predictable from topography, and the tall trees are often scattered rather than densely packed in discrete groves. Consequently, most of the records from north Georgia will be species that grow well in association with white pines or on similar site types, but there is also some potential for rich site hardwoods that grow best at low elevations.

This holiday season I will be visiting a few of the most promising sites. Overestimation of tree heights due to leaning trees on steep slopes is much more common with white pine than tuliptree, so it is hard to say just how tall the trees will turn out to be. The data is dense enough to see a strong lean, so the largest errors can be avoided. The tallest hits that look reliable are around 190’, so the Boogerman Pine’s reign as the tallest known conifer in the east may not last much longer.


by Jess Riddle
Wed Dec 21, 2011 8:40 pm
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Dear NTS,

Happy New Yr - I wish you all a tree-filled 2012; I know that will be fulfilled.

I also want to take you through my trip to Bhutan in October 2011. The discussion on the big Ostrya in the tropics triggered this series of postings. Wait until you see the Symplocus from southern Bhutan! I will start this series with the travel into Bhutan. It is a long, exciting trip. I started my journey from the city of Shenyang in northeast China. Despite starting on that side of the world, it still took a bit over 9 hours of flying from Shenyang to Paro, Bhutan: Shenyang --> Shanghai --> Bangkok, Thailand --> Paro. Of course, the most exciting portion was on the last leg into Bhutan. As Bhutan is still a hard to reach, but often dreamed of destination, my fellow passengers acted like I recall my first plane ride - total giddiness! Cliched, but the excitement was truly palpable.

The only way they allow planes to fly into Paro during daylight hours and visual meteorological conditions . Unfortunately for us, it was cloudy at our cruising height, so it was hard to get an overview of the Himalayas.


Peaks of the Himalayas emerging from the clouds.


As we started our descent, of course, we could see into the Kingdom of Bhutan.


Our final approach included a sharp bend into the narrow valley holding the landing strip (a strip that is from two directions depending on the direction of the wind), a short hop over one final ridge line into the valley, nearly clipping houses and Buddhist structures and then a final hard turn to the left just before touching down.

Want to get a sense of what it is like to land at Paro? Check out this clip:


Obviously we made it. But, this view shows how closed in the valley is.

The drive from Paro to Thimphu, Bhutan's capital, is a little over 50 km, but roughly an hour to drive. I do not generally get car sick, but Bhutan's roads are a real test:

We were delayed coming from Bangkok, so our trip to Thimphu was a race against the setting sun. I did get some glimpses of the two main pine in Bhutan, blue pine and chir pine. The pictures below are from other days and other parts of the trip. First, blue pine.


Like the Korean pine of northeast China, I was blown away by blue pine's resemblance to eastern white pine [or, likely more correct evolutionarily-speaking, vice-versa]. See how the fluffiness of the blue pine's crown resembles other white pines? For some reason, I didn't purposefully take more pictures of blue pine. I was obsesses with seeing the broadleaf species. I did get some other trees in the background of other pictures. The best one is below.


Most of the blue pine we saw were young and seeding in following fire. They apparently planted thousands of blue pine outside of microsite requirements along the road from Paro to Thimphu. During some severe autumn droughts over the last 10 years the blue pine have been dying back. A Bhutanese scientist has connected severe autumn drought to the dieback of blue pine.

What captured most of my attention on the drive in, however, were the chir pine.


Chir pine bark


Chir pine twig


The stout branches of chir pine


needle arrangement of Chir pine


If there were not steep ridgelines in the background, I would have thought I was in the southeastern US [ignoring the cool, dryish October air].

Next stop: Dochula.

by Neil
Sun Jan 01, 2012 10:55 am
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Re: 3D surface modeling of a giant redwood trunk

I have decided to go hi-tech with the majority of the trunk surface modeling. The point by point approach was too slow to practically model a giant redwood tree for precise volume determination.

However there are a handful of widely available technologies including ground LIDAR and optical parallax scanners (Ms Kinect for example) that can quickly and accurately map a trunk. LIDAR has the best range. The problem is in a cluttered forest environment you get a lot of noise and unwanted cloud points. Hundreds of thousands potentially. But these can be filtered out.

See latest map of Drury, Terex and an unnamed giant redwood. ALso attached is a trunk scan of an oak tree using an optical scanner (measures pixel off-set ratio between a digital camera focal center and line laser projection and blends with photo pixel data).
The Impulse200LR and Mapsmart will be useful for hitting tight areas were cloud density is low and/or not reachable by optical scanning technology. I need to create a properly scaled skeleton framework with the MapSmart/Impulse200 combination first. With Drury, this framework is almost complete.

During my point by point mapping of Drury's lower 100ft of trunk, I discovered something interesting about Drury's structure. It was once 3 trees that merged into one. The tree leans a little so the direct over-head view does not show these vestigial side trunk iterations that merged. However I slight nudge on the tilting axis view shows these old trunks fused. I left the graph in the best over-head oblique position to see this. That would explain the flange-like protrusions on the side of Drury's trunk. Despite the old fusions, I still consider Drury to be one tree now.

See attached Excel spreadsheet of Drury's cloud map with rotating and tilting graphs. Also see attached screen captures from my 3D graphic software show the optical parallax scans of tree trunks, including Drury. These are HUGE clouds sets that are on average 100k in size. The trunk features are easily captured, with somewhat accurate color, bark texture and features such as burls and holes etc... Note the colorized pixels !

....see attached

Michael Taylor
by M.W.Taylor
Wed Jan 11, 2012 6:00 pm
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Kenyir Lake trip report, Malaysia

Hi guys,

I know I don't post much here, but this is something from me. This is just a personal trip report from my visit to this manmade hydroelectric dam some two months ago, and here are some photos from that (short) trip. I did not get to visit the forest much, but what I saw was just fabulous. Kenyir Lake is a dam surrounded by lush tropical rainforest....the dam is pretty large, in fact the largest in South East Asia.

All these photos were taken during my lake cruise to visit a fish sanctuary deeper in, located near the boundary to our main National Park, Taman Negara. Most of the forest is logged forest, with old growth/primary forest near to and inside the Taman Negara boundaries.

While the trees weren't really tall, some stood out, like huge strangler figs (circled in the 1st photo). That tree probably has a crown width of 30-40 meters across, if estimated from the houseboat which you can also spot in that photo. Click the photos for a larger view.

This last photo is interesting, because you can spot palm oil trees at the right side of the photo in primary forest at the edge of the lake bank. Palm oil is not native to this region (from Africa).

I asked my guide how did they end up there, and he said it's because of anglers who must have thrown some seeds by the bank (the seeds of palm oil are used as fish bait). There is also a large Koompassia excelsa in the photo (the tree with white branches). It wasn't tall (like most of the trees) but stout.

Wish I can go back on another trip some day, to explore the forest there more thoroughly :)

I have a blog about my rainforest trips at and there's more about the trip here:

While I only post if I have the time and inclination, there's more stuff there for those of you who might want to know more about the great South East Asian dipterocarp rainforests.

by Shorea
Tue Dec 13, 2011 4:47 am
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Lacombe Louisiana Live Oaks

NTS, The small town of Lacombe is located in south central Louisiana in St. Tammany Parrish. I passed through this area last year on my way to Fountainebleau State Park and noticed several big trees growing here. Lacombe has many Live Oaks these are four of the largest. The first tree is located on Davis Ave., called Shady Lady Oak. This tree had some massive limbs and was difficult to measure due to the undergrowth on the property. The measurements were CBH-22’ 5”, Height-54’ and Spread-126’ x 123’. The next three Oaks I measured all grow on Main St. two grow in the center of the road and one at a private residence. The first tree you encounter as you drive down Main is the Agnus Dei Oak, CBH-22’ 2”, Height-57’ and Spread- 117’ x 102’. This Oak really catches your eye as you enter the road but doesn’t have an overpowering dominance. As you continue east you drive alongside the Pax Domini Oak, another beautiful tree. The measurements were CBH-21’ 5”, Height-66’ and Spread-126’ 105’. The final tree at the private residence across the road maybe 50 yards to the north of Pax is the Cousin Oak. It measured CBH-23’ 2”, Height-66’ and Spread-138’ x 114’. It was the most massive of all four trees and had some really huge limbs.Three of the four trees are registered with the Louisiana Live Oak Society- Shady Lady #2572, Agnus Dei #2419, and Pax Domini #2420. In adding these four trees to the Listing I have now reached 200 trees with only 6 just under 20' CBH. One is 19', one 19' 5", two 19' 6", two 19' 9" all the rest are 20-34'+. The 40' CBH National Champ Seven Sisters is a clump of 7 trunks and should be the multi champ. The double trunk tree E. O. Hunt would be next at 34' 3". The single trunk champ would be the Ms Champion Walkaih Bluff Oak at 33' 1" followed by the Middleton Oak at 32' 8".There are still some 30+ Live Oaks out there I just haven't made it to them yet. This has been a very enjoyable undertaking and I've learned much about the Live Oak since 2006. In the future I could possibly make it to 300 trees over 20+ and maybe 400 at the most. I'll compile a list by State and post on it later. Larry
by Larry Tucei
Mon Feb 13, 2012 10:55 pm
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Costa Rica Trees & Natural history #1

I will be sending a series of posts in the next couple of weeks comprising photos and descriptions of trees and animals and narrations of experiences from one partial work trip to the Peruvian Amazon last September, and another trip with my wife to Costa Rica in December-January. Having learned the proper way to measure trees from Bob Leverett and having unusual and frequent access to Central and South America I figured NTS folks might enjoy these posts, as they are rare on the bulletin board.

My holy grail in Central and South America is to find a Neotropical emergent tree over 200 feet tall. My friend Phil Wittman did measure with proper protocol one Ceiba pentandra tree, that I had previously posted images for, at 180' height. It had been previously estimated at 220'. Though it is often said that Kapok trees (a common name which actually refers to two or more species) from which cottony seed floss is collected for stuffing life vests and mattresses, exceed 200' in height, I have not come across any that were clearly accurately measured, with a clearly described methodology, that achieved that height. Instead it seems that there are several accounts, but the authors all seem to quote each other when you try to trace the origin of the actual figures.

I am optimistic that this goal will be realized because in these tropical forests, there is not one or two, but 10's of emergent species that may aspire to reach such a height. To date, with the standard caveat "as far as I know" no Neotropical tree has unequivocally achieved this stature and been reliably measured. If you have information to the contrary, please post it with the source, or let me know.

Before getting into the images and descriptions I would like to set the stage for what I have been trying to do and what it is like to pursue my goal in the Central and South American tropical forest environments. In Peru I build canopy walkways for a living and have been returning regularly for 22 years to inspect and maintain the systems that my associates and I have designed and built. I have been visiting Peru and Ecuador off and on since 1984, having taken 25 trips to the Amazon Basin. I have also worked in Belize and Costa Rica and have been to Central America probably around 20 times for work, biological research, to bring groups of college students down for tropical ecology studies and to visit friends. My main study interest in the Neotropics was originally certain orders of arachnids (no, not all arachnids are spiders- think ticks and mites,scorpions,pseodoscorpions and harvestmen<daddy longlegs>as some examples of arachnid orders), but more recently, with the help of Andrew Joslin and Bob Leverett, I have developed a new obsession, and that is old growth emergent trees. Since folks such as Will Blozan and Bob Leverett know more about temperate trees than I can ever hope to learn, I figured I would take advantage of my access to the New World tropics to learn something about the Emergent trees to be found there. Unlike my home in the Eastern US, where only the White Pine and Tulip Tree tend to grow above the canopy and then spread out above the other trees, there are certainly well over 20 true emergent tree species in the Peruvian Amazon. In the Eastern US, other trees such as the Cotton Woods and Sycamores achieve impressive heights, but their pattern tends to be different and often they grow in a less dense flood plane environment where a tall straight growth architecture is less important in achieving dominance.

While visiting Costa Rica my wife Connie and I stayed at friends Ralph and Margarita in Alta del Monte west of the continental divide. For a few days we also stayed with Margaritas extended family and at the Tirimbina Research Center, both located in the state of Sarapiqui on the Caribbean side of the divide. We were able to get a discounted rate at Tirimbina as I provided a climbing seminar for some staff members at the center. I also spent time on a night climb with my friend Witold Lapinski and his girl friend who was visiting at the time.

Witold is a German doctoral student studying the behavior of wandering spiders, a behavioral group which includes spiders that hunt down their prey without making webs. On nights that are not too rainy he climbs one of the several trees he has rigged to observe these spiders for several hours using his head lamp. He says he has collected enough data in the past year or so to publish probably around 20 papers. Among the trees he has rigged are 3 Kapoks (Ceiba pentandra), one of which exceeds 150 feet in height. Unfortunately I did not get photos of the largest Kapoks in the day time. I did however get a few shots of various creatures in the top of one of the taller trees he rigged. We had to be careful in this tree as there was apparently a Bullet Ant (Paraponera clavata) nest in the top of the tree in a crotch full of soil, and the beasts were quite actively foraging on the limbs. They are called bullet ants because their sting is said to feel like being shot with a bullet. Though this description is a bit of an exaggeration, the sting is extremely painful and the pain can last for as long as 24 hours, though Witold says he seems to have developed an immunity to them such that it is more of an annoyance when he gets stung as opposed to the expected harrowing experience that some of my associates have been unfortunate enough to go through.

Fortunately I have only been stung by a member of the Bullet ants larger sister genus. This happened 2 years ago in the Peruvian Amazon. The name of this other ant genus is Dinoponera, probably because it is a quarter of an inch longer than the one inch long bullet ant and ,as such, is the dinosaur of the ants. Fortunately for me, this largest of new world ants, has a less potent sting than its smaller but more fearsome sister genus. The sting occurred two hours after I had been photographing these ants coming from a nest at the base of a tree in a reserve on the Río Marañón in Northern Peru. I was suddenly awakened when I rolled over during an afternoon siesta to find that one of the these ants had crawled up my pants leg during the photo shoot and had now given me a wicked sting on my upper thigh just below my -- better not go there.

Any way, identifying giant trees in the Amazon or Central America can be a bit daunting. I thought it was quite an accomplishment when I ran my tree service in Chapel Hill North Carolina and learned the Latin names of 21 oak species, but compared to dealing with an environment where, according to some sources, there can be over 600 species of trees on a single hectare (about 2.5 acres), that was child's play. This is why I have limited my scope to only the tall emergent trees, aside from the fact that they hold the most interest for me, and are the most exciting to climb. So now I guess it's time for the first image of trees in a Costa Rican ravine:


The deep light dappled ravine provided constant surprises such as gorgeous waterfalls and swimming holes to die for even though no one ever uses them. The steep cliffs and immense boulders gave my friend Bob Lucas and I a feeling of being small in this amazing place where the giant cashew trees grew so frequently that we did not bother with the dozens of big trees that appeared to be only 12' or less in circumference. There was always something awe inspiring around each curve and meander of the stream.


Bob and I had to zig zag across the stream and boulder hop to find good walking space in and on the sides of the rocky stream bed. As we moved along we looked up at the long leaves which also coated much of the ground below with a thick crunchy layer from these Wild Cashew Trees. The large leaves (up to 16 inches long) from these trees create a layer of detritus and barely decomposed dry leaves a foot or more thick. Here is the view looking up.


Interestingly these trees which were quite large and tall were also the most common trees along the banks of the stream. This interesting tree species is in the Anacardiaceae family which also contains the Sumacs and poison Ivy. This relationship may explain why allergic reactions to the raw nuts and fruit of the cultivated species (Anacardium occidentale) are not uncommon. These "Espave" trees were clearly the dominant emergents in several pacific slope ravines that I visited. What follows is some of the images and data collected during one excursion with my friend Bob Lucas, some of the images are from his own property.


This was the first tree we measured on this particular hike. From here we wended our way down the river to our next tree.


Unfortunately we had to make time in order to make it to a cut to get out of the ravine and to a road by nightfall, so many large species were not able to be identified in this exploratory trip. All height measurements were taken simply by pointing the Nikon 440 rangefinder straight up, so most of the trees were probably a couple of feet taller.


Ambove was our tallest Wild Cashew, yet there is a more imposing one coming up in the next post of this series. Below is pictured a strange looking unidentified species that required a photo nevertheless.


I will be doing 4 or 5 more posts including one about Tirimbina Research Center, another ravine hike including a report on a massive Ceiba pentandra (Kapok Tree) and a couple about trees and beasts in the Peruvian Amazon.

by Bart Bouricius
Thu Feb 23, 2012 8:00 pm
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Please take a look


Those with an interest in the tree measuring aspect of NTS, take a look at the following.

Screen shot 2012-05-12 at 3.33.48 PM.jpg

The tops of this white oak visible from the chosen vantage point and the data in the accompanying table reveal the challenge of measuring tree height with tape and clinometer. Note that the horizontal distance to every one of these tops is less than the horizontal distance to the base. Using a baseline to the trunk and the angle to anyone of these tops would over-estimate the tree's height. If the measurer chooses the highest looking top, the over-estimate will be greater. This illustrates the problem of using a baseline to the trunk for the actual baseline needed for the chosen crown point. In the coming weeks, I plan to do a lot more of this kind of analysis combining an image with tabular data. It appears to be the best approach to laying bare the elements of the problem.

by dbhguru
Sat May 12, 2012 3:49 pm
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Tallest Known Sugar Pine Confirmed By Ascending The Giants

On 6/1 I met up with a a few news reporters and Ascending the Giants climbers Brian French and Will Koomjian in Canyonville to document what I claim is the tallest known sugar pine in Umpqua National Forest. This tree was long thought dead by the outside world and forgotten about after it was girdled sometime in the early 1990s.

Mario Vaden and I measured the tree in January 2011 at 255 feet handheld Impulse200LR laser. In Fall 2011 I re-measured the tree with assistance from Laser Technology Inc. Western Sales Manager Steve Colburn. This time the measurement was tripod mounted and I used a leap frog prism pole survey to the tree's base. Result 255.12 feet.

On 6/1 Brian and Will climb this towering sugar pine and dropped a tape down fromt he top-most leader. Result 255.44 feet. The crown is very broad with a central leader that is not visible until you get very far back. For this reason I was not able to hit the very tip of the highest leader, but I came close.

See attached pictures showing Brian French, the 1st ascender to the top.

Michael Taylor

by M.W.Taylor
Sun Jun 03, 2012 5:25 pm
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Photos from forest reserve near Taman Negara, Malaysia

Recently, I was on a 2 day volunteer trip to assist the local wildlife department along with a group of other volunteers in the adjacent forest reserves bordering Taman Negara, Malaysia's premier national park which sprawls 434,000 ha. More photos and details on Taman Negara in my blog and

The adjacent forest reserves are still in ok condition and they are currently a designated wildlife corridor, but apparently logged in the past.

Even so, many of the remaining trees are tall and big with many exceeding 40 m in height, and you can only imagine the forest before any logging took place. Of course, I took the opportunity to take some photos, and here are some of them.

I am certain in its unlogged state, the old growth would have trees with diameters exceeding 2 m and heights exceeding 50 m.

Wildlife is still abundant here, and there are many signs of them on the logging track, like footprints and dung. Elephant dung was very common in places and if you're unlucky or lucky, you might come face to face with a herd. I say "unlucky" because elephants can be very dangerous! :)
by Shorea
Tue Jul 03, 2012 12:40 am
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Central Sierra Expedition - Big Sugar Pines Down

I just got back from the central Sierra with Mario Vaden and Mike Hanuschik. The 3Ms on a mission to photograph champion trees for American Forests. There was some dispute whether Whelan Pine or Pickering Pine was the true champion sugar pine. Pickering indeed did have a larger base and 2 more feet of height...slightly more points. Whelan however is a much larger tree by volume. At 50 feet above the ground is the first branch which is 3 feet in diameter. At this point the trunk is still over 9 feet in diameter.

We ventured into the Pickering Pine grove and found the Pickering to be lying sideways. See attached. One Armed Bandit just above it in a flat bench area was lying sideways too...see attached. 2nd and 4th largest sugar pines likely blew over in the huge December 2011 storm. Some of the needles still show a little green on the fallen foliage. Pickering Pine's base collapsed and One Arm Bandit snapped in half at 35-40 feet above the ground.

Too bad the forest service is allowing clearcutting around the entire area leaving virtually no protective buffer zone. Additionally the area has hoards of free range cattle that trample everything in sight and leave the place a dusty, smelly mess. The springs and streams are being trashed by the cattle. The 4 roads that lead into this place are either gated or blocked with rock piles. Why does the USFS block access to this area ? To protect it ?

On a more positive note.

Whelan Rules !
by M.W.Taylor
Mon Aug 27, 2012 11:33 pm
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Balloon Launch At Little Bear Wallow Meadow

Last weekend I launched a 6ft weather balloon at Little Bear Wallow Meadow, Trinity County California, to survey for big and tall trees and also test a survey platform I've been working on. In this meadow grows the 2nd largest known ponderosa pine by volume, an 8.3' dbh, 234' specimen with 5,200 cubic feet of wood volume. It's a real beast.

The area around LIttle Bear Wallow Meadow is arguably the finest forest in Trinity National Forest, despite it being partially cut.

The ballooon was mounted with a remotely controlled Trupulse360 forestry laser and inexpensive 20x optical zoom digital camera. The Trupulse and the camera are mechanically linked so that when I look through the video feed of the camera crosshair it is aligned with the Trupulse360. This way I can use the camera as the viewfinder for the Trupulse with a nice high-resolution wide angle picture.

I use bluetooth control to change the mode and settings of the Trupulse360 while in the air from my laptop on the ground. The range using a bluetooth amplifier aka "bluetooth wardriver" is about 500 feet. A recurring command is sent to the Trupulse to prevent it from timing out if idle and turning off.

There is full servo drive control of the zoom-in and zoom-out features of the Panasonic F25 as well as the take-picture of take-video buttons. I can even take pictures while do video. The interface is mechanical.

This video feed goes into my mini laptop computer and also there a smaller screen on the remote control itself with the same image. Using a 3/4 watt video amplier on the balloon platform I can get 400ft+ range line of sight. A switch on the remote control can goes back and forth between the digital camera view and the eyepiece of the Trupulse360 so I can see what is happening with the Trupulse360 in real time if I don't have the bluetooth and laptop linked up with the Trupulse.

The RC joystick turns the video of the Panasonic F25 camera on and off. This inexpensive camera from Amazon has 20x optical zoom and 1980x1080 high definition video. The joystick also activates the take photograph button, which can be pressed in continuously for burst mode.

This is a total survey platform and it works great when the winds are calm. I can download the measurements directly into Laser Technologies MapSmart program using the bluetooth so I can use the platform as a control point for 3d surveys from the sky.

Using the gear driven servo drives I can get fine tune control of the Trupulse, which is triggered by conneting serial pin#1 and pin#2 with a servo switch which is also button controlled from the remote control. Without the 5:1 gears the motion of the servo motors would be too fast to use the TP360 effectively.

This system only works in calm condtions. If windy though this system will be a total nightmare and you'll likely lose your equipment. Also, the balloon will pop easily against sharp objects if fully inflated so keep away from trees and pines needles. A fall from 200+feet will shatter any camera or trupulse completely..or your head ! Consider wearing helmet if using this. Seriously ! I popped the 6ft weather balloon as I was bringing the platform back down through the trees. Even from 8 feet up this 4lb platform fell like a brick right by my head. I was fortunate nothing broke on the platform or my head. It hit the ground with a loud thud. Scarry moment.

Also, make sure to use 80lb or higher strength braided fishing line such as Pro-Line.

The platform weight exactly 4 lbs. The lift on the 6ft weather balloon was easily 7 lbs so I could have lifted more eqiupment potentially. The greater the lift per weight ratio, the greater the stability and control of the platform. Two or more lines can be used to anchor the platform to allow for better control and prevent balloon loss in the event of the single anchor line breaking.

Will update on more balloon launches next month.

Michael Taylor
California Big Trees Coordinator
by M.W.Taylor
Wed Sep 12, 2012 1:43 pm
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Bushwhack Hits Paydirt

Last weekend I returned to the forest of the tallest known sugar pine with friends John and Ben to further explore the "hot zone". The "hot zone" is a series of well protected benches, meadows and gullies in Yosemite National Park. The terrain was mostly rolling hill type with a few flat bottomland areas.

Here are the trees we found:

Ht Species Location
273' douglas fir Yosemite National Park
264' sugar pine YNP
261' sugar pine YNP
258' sugar pine YNP
256' sugar pine YNP
255' sugar pine YNP
253' ponderosa YNP
251' sugar pine YNP

The 273' douglas fir is the 2nd tallest known tree of the sierras beside giant sequoia.

The 264' (80.4m) "Sugar Tower" puts the species back into the 80m club. The Yosemite Giant was the tallest known sugar pine and only one known to be over 80m but it died a few years ago. It has likely fallen over or lost its top by now.

I think eventaully we will locate a 270' class sugar pine but it will require a lot of searching. An aerial survey might be necessary.

Michael Taylor

California Big Trees Coordinator
by M.W.Taylor
Sun Oct 07, 2012 1:50 pm
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The Prašnik Oak Forest in Croatia

Prašnik Oak Forest

At June 21 2012 we visited the Prašnik Special Reserve, an oak forest near Stara Gradiška, Croatia. This is a rather small (53.35 hectare) remnant and the only uncut part of the once huge virgin Slavonian oakforests along the Sava and Drava rivers.

This then nearly uninhabited area was settled by the Austro-Hungarian administration as a buffer-zone towards Turkey-occupied Bosnia. The history of the Slavonian oak forests is the history of vanishing of the last primeval forests in the Central European lowlands.
The Croatian-Slavonian Military Fronticr District registered in 1746 approximately 741 thousand hectares of virgin oakforests. Although the quality of the "Slavonian oak" was already known since the middle ages, exploitation on a larger, and ever increasing scale started only in the late 18th century.
The Slavonian oakforests were famous because of their high quality timber and the great dimensions the oaks could attain. In 1900 at the world exhibition in Paris a Slavonian oak stem section was displayed with a diameter at breast hight of 260 cm and a volume of 64 m3.

Originally the Slavonian floodplain forests were inundated every year and often for a long time in winter and spring. Research has revealed that (beside the pionier willows and poplars) from all hardwood treespecies Pedunculate oak (Quercus robur) can widstand flooding for the longest periods. This gave them a great advantage to other species like ash, elm, maples and hornbeam. The Slavonian oaks were from a special genetic type, very diverse but also late coming into leaf so even less susceptible to flooding in late spring.
The forest probably was rather open in the past and oak could regenerate here.
Because of measures against flooding this natural advantage for oak has vanished.

In the 1920's only 7500 hectares of the virgin oakforests had not been destroyed, but even these were cut. Only the tiny Prašnik forest of 53.35 hectares was left and declared a reserve. Oaks over 300 years old can be found here. The forest can not really be called virgin / pristine / primeval or old growth: the Sava river is behind dikes now and has not flooded this area for 60 years. The water tables are much lower than a century ago, because of the dikes, agricultural measures and also the climate change, resulting in warmer (and dryer?) summers (information Mrs Katica Nuspahić).
In Prašnik during recent decades Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) has become much more prevalent, forming a dense second layer in the forest. Oaks can no longer regenerate in these circumstances. Many of the older oaks have died, probably because of the lower water table.
In the forest a few other tree species can be seen, among them Black Alder (Alnus glutinosa), Field Elm (Ulmus minor) and Field Maple (Acer campestre) and at relatively high locations a few large, old beeches (Fagus sylvatica).
We were able to visit this forest reserve thanks to Mrs. Katica Nuspahić, forest engineer of the Croatian Forestry Institute and Mr. Krunoslav Szabo, head-forester of Okučani Forest Office. They guided us in the forest and gave a lot of information.
Part of the forest is still suspected of land mines form the Croatian Serbian war in 1991-1992.
The reserve has suffered from a much lower water table in the reserve the last decades, because of dykes along the Sava river, agricultural measures and climate change. Many oaks have died or are dying and now hornbeam is increasing greatly wich limites the rejuvenation of oaks.

In the Slavonian floodplain now many more oak forests can be seen, but none of them are original old growth forests. Several of them have been planted from the mid nineteenth century. Especially in the eastern part of Croatia there are again large and beautiful oak forests with trees of around 150 years, which make a natural impression and are ecologically very valuable.
We measured the largest oak in the forest. It was 39.6 m (130 ft) tall with cbh of 730 cm (23.95 ft) @ 1.5 m (782 cm (25.39 ft) @ 1.3 m). Estimated age around 300 - 350 years, total wood volume at least 50 m3. Michael made about 200 photos to send to Michael Taylor to make a 3-dimensional model of the tree to estimate the volume.
The large buttresses give the impression the oaks grew up in a relative wet situation with high water table; the area in that time perhaps was rather often flooded by the Sava river.
There are more oaks of over 6 m girth in Prašnik forest. The height of most oaks we measured was between 35 and 38 m. They look as if they have grown up under rather open circumstances, not with a great density of the forest. Compared to the oaks in the Białowieża primeval forest in Poland they have shorter trunks, the crowns begin at a lesser height.

Jeroen, Kouta and Michael 2012.
by Jeroen Philippona
Sat Nov 03, 2012 1:01 pm
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Maple Height Record - Humboldt Honey - 157.8 ft.

maple_measure_2.jpg Howdy y'all ... I'm typing from the coast redwood area, at the Curly Redwood Lodge. Earlier on the drive up, I called Michael Taylor about the Bigleaf Maple I found near Avenue of the Giants, which I finally measured this morning. It's one I previously estimated like 155' if memory serves, and mentioned in an earlier topic.

Here's the measurements, and nam e ...

"Humboldt Honey"

Acer macrophyllum / Bigleaf Maple
Height 157.80 feeet
Circumference @ dbh 9.50 feet

Wouldn't surprise me if Zane Moore comes up with a rash of these now. Although, I'd actually like to hunt for more of these with Zane, or with Michael in 2013. A maple excursion.

I've plastered tree forums the UBC bontanical forum with questions about Acer heights worldwide, and from what I've gleaned, there isn't one known taller. None anybody has mentioned anyway.

Here is the previous topic related to this maple >>>

by mdvaden
Sun Oct 28, 2012 9:41 pm
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Big Pines Hwy 89 (Lake Tahoe)
After visiting the Kokanee Salmon, I drove past an awesome section of forest along Hwy 89 with several goliath trees.
The tree above was the King of the Weekend. It's the first Ponderosa Pine I have found with a cbh greater than 22 feet. This tree measured in with a cbh of approximately 23 feet, 9 in. You can just barely see me standing next to the tree for scale on the right side. If anyone is interested, I recorded GPS coordinates of this weekend's trees as well.
Above is beautiful Emerald Bay.
by Mark Collins
Sun Oct 28, 2012 10:25 pm
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The Trsteno Planes - largest trees of Europe?

The Trsteno Planes – largest trees of Europe?

At the second European Champion Tree Forum, October 2011 in Bonn, Germany, two of the participants, the tree experts Aubrey Fennell of Ireland and Jeroen Pater from the Netherlands were talking about a huge Oriental Plane tree (Platanus orientalis) in Trsteno, near Dubrovnik, Croatia. They thought that it could be the tree with the largest wood volume in Europe, larger even than the great Oak of Ivenack in Germany, which was thought to be at least the largest tree in Northern Europe.
Jeroen Philippona had heard this and received measurements from Mr Fennell, who had visited the tree in 2005. With a hypsometer he had measured a height of 44 m and a cbh of around 12 m. He thought that the tree could have a volume of 150 to 200 cubic metres. A second plane tree beside it is nearly as large.

When planning our trip to the Balkans we decided to visit these Trsteno planes. We emailed the Dubrovnik Municipality, who own the trees, and with our references received permission to climb and measure the largest tree. On June 22 we arrived in Trsteno and met Nikolina Đangradović and Ivo Stanović, two officials of the Dubrovnik municipality.
As we admired the trees they gave us some information about their history, which centres around the tree nearest to the road, the largest of the two.
It is thought that in the early 16th century a Diplomat from Constantinople brought 5 young plane trees as a present which were planted near a spring in Trsteno and of which two have survived.

In 1806 Napoleon's army were about to invade Dubrovnik but were stopped at Trsteno by a huge limb shed from the tree. The local priest managed to convince the invaders that it wasn't done to stop the army but was a limb shed by the tree many years before. It took the army 2 days to cut the limb and clear the way. In those 2 days the government of Dubrovnik were able to negotiate with Napoleon and save the city from the French invaders - the tree had saved Dubrovnik!

50 years ago someone tried to remove a hornet nest in the hollow trunk by setting fire to it. It took the fire brigade an entire day to put out the blaze. According to Ivo part of the water entered the heart of the tree and damaged it.

20 years ago a car came off the road and crashed into the trunk. The car was wrecked and the 1 metre scar on the trunk is still there.

5 years ago a huge limb fell off and killed a French tourist. The plot was fenced off and 2 years later the crown was reduced by around 25% by a team lead by the German expert Bodo Siegert. According to Siegert the tree was originally 48.5 m tall and after the pruning just over 42 m, both measured by climbing with tape (with laser we could measure only 40.7 m at maximum, so we hesitate to trust the original figure). He thought the tree could have a volume of 200 to 250 m3!
A sonar study was done a couple of years ago on the limbs (but not the trunk as it is too large for sonar to penetrate). There are hollow spaces in the large limbs thought to have been caused by a fungus. There is blight on the leaves too. According to Siegert a lack of funds prevented other urgent soil and water situational measures from being carried out.
The second of the two huge Trsteno planes stands in a walled garden on the east side of the larger tree. Between the trees is a spring which has given the trees the possibility to grow to gigantic dimensions. Ivo Stanović informed us that the second tree lost a large part of its crown in high winds in 2003. Before that it was measured at 46 m tall (measuring method unknown). The tree is perhaps 10 to 20 % smaller in volume than its neighbour.
We measured the girth and height of both trees. Michael climbed the largest tree to make series of photos, which were to be sent to Michael Taylor to make a three dimensional point cloud to estimate the total volume. Michael did not climb to the top to measure the height with a tape drop.

Here are our measurements:

Tree 1.
Height: 40.6 – 40.7 m / 133 – 133.5 ft
Circumference @ 2.0 m: 10.75 m / 35.27 ft
@ 1.5 m: 11.73 m / 38.48 ft
@ 1.3 m: 12.10 m / 39.70 ft
@ 1.0 m: 12.91 m / 42.36 ft
@ 0.5 m: 13.91 m / 45.64 ft
Crown spread: 28 – 35 m / 90 – 115 ft

Tree 2.
Height: 33 m
Circumference @ 1.5 m: 11.39 m / 37.4 ft
@ 1.3 m: 11.54 m / 37.86 ft
Crown spread 26 – 35 m / 85 – 115 ft

Whilst we hope that with the photos Michael Taylor will be able to make a good volume estimate,
we have already made a very preliminary estimate of the wood volume:

The trunk to 15 m height could have a volume of around 100 cubic metres (3531 cubic feet), the rest of it another 10 m3. The limbs and branches could have a total volume of about 50 m3. So the total volume could be around 160 m3 = 5650 cubic feet.

The second tree could be about 130 to 140 m3 = 4500 – 5000 ft3.

Among other contenders for the largest tree in Europe that we know of are:

The Oak of Ivenack, Germany (Quercus robur) which is estimated at 120 to 140 m3 (4200 – 5000 ft3), a Sessile oak (Quercus petraea) at Croft Castle, England: estimated at 107 m3 (3800 ft3), (Robert van Pelt 2006), a few other oaks estimated at 90 – 100 m3 and several giant sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum) in Switzerland, Germany, France, Belgium and the UK of at least 100 – 110 m3.

Also some cedars of the Lebanon (Cedrus libani) in England, a European white fir (Abies alba) in Scotland and several European sweet chestnuts (Castanea sativa) in Spain, Italy and England have a possible total wood volume of around 100 m3. Very large oriental planes exist in Greece and Turkey, but exact volume estimates for these are not known.

The giant sequoias will, in a few decades, be the largest trees of Europe, but of Europe’s native trees the oriental plane trees of Trsteno are likely to remain the largest.

In Trsteno there is still more to see for the lover of trees. The nearby hills are full of Italian Cypresses (Cupressus sempervirens) of different shapes: very narrow ones as well as rough, broader types. Between the Plane trees and the Adriatic lies the famous and very old Trsteno Arboretum, dating from the fifteenth century, laid out as a beautiful renaissance garden with fountains, an old villa, and full of mediterranean tree species: various cypresses, palms, olive and citrus trees, Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis), oriental hornbeam (Carpinus orientalis), downy oak (Quercus pubescens), etc.
Besides this, the views over the Adriatic and Trsteno harbour are great!
Jeroen, Michael & Kouta

by Jeroen Philippona
Sat Nov 10, 2012 10:18 am
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Travelogue Part 3 - Trsteno Planes

Good morning!

It's Saturday: time for the third installment of our Travelogue. This one covers the largest trees in Europe and an eventful road trip...

Balkans 2012 Travelogue Part 3.docx

I hope you enjoy it.


Part 3

Days 4-5: The Trsteno Planes

Having finally caught up on sleep we’re feeling more energetic today as we head south towards the Adriatic coast. Due to the long crescent shape of Croatia and the fact that Bosnia extends like a finger southwards to touch the Adriatic, we have to cross the Croatian-Bosnian border no less than 3 times this morning, which means 6 check points and of course 6 queues! It soon becomes clear that our 10:30 rendezvous at the Trsteno Planes is not going to happen. We’re already late by the time we reach the coast road and our first glimpse of the Adriatic and the Peljesac peninsula running parallel with the mainland creating a perfect natural harbour.

The two Oriental planes at Trsteno, near Dubrovnik are thought to be the largest living things in Europe. We were still half a mile away when the crowns became visible. The larger of the two grows right beside the coast road on a plot of ground which is actually smaller than the area covered by its crown. There are cars parked along the roadside below its limbs on the north side. Every hour or so a coachload of tourists pulls up and its passengers spill out, take photographs and then continue on their way to Dubrovnik. There is a glass shelter on the east side and a side road leading to the arboretum on the west side. My role here is to measure the wood volume of this tree in a day…somehow.

Waiting for us under the tree are Nikolina Đangradović and Ivo Stanović, two officials from the Dubrovnik municipality. Nicolina translates as Ivo tells us the colourful history of this 500 year old life. Two hundred years ago when the tree was already a giant, Napoleon’s invading army were stopped by a huge limb which had been shed by the tree and was blocking the road. This gave the council of Dubrovnik time to negotiate a truce and save the city. Ivo points to various scars and wounds, souvenirs of a fire and a car crash. A huge scar on the side facing the road is where a limb broke off 5 years ago, killing a French tourist. Tree surgeons were called in soon afterwards to reduce the crown by 25% meaning that the original height of 48 metres is now closer to 40m, although there may still be as much as 200m³ of wood in the remaining trunk and limbs.

I knew that, being the only climber, measuring each major limb by hand in a day would be impossible. Michael Taylor suggested making a photo point cloud and has given me hugely detailed instructions on how best to take the photos. The aim is to take photos of every major limb and trunk from different angles with the same feature being present in 3 consecutive photos. There can be no blurred photos and the camera orientation must change very little from photo to photo. There has to be a scaling object of known dimensions in the photos at regular intervals. All of this will enable the software to stitch together the complete set of about 1000 photos into one 3D model from which the volume can be calculated.

I look up into the arms of this leviathan. Limbs at least 5 feet in diameter billow out in all directions from a massive trunk nearly 40 feet around, meandering in all directions. It’s immediately obvious that taking a coherent photoset at close range and with full summer foliage will need a lot of thought. I only have this afternoon and tomorrow morning to do what I can.

The gear I managed to fit in my pack is not really sufficient to traverse around between limbs of this size and I can’t risk getting it stuck in the tree so I decide to install a rope from the ground in two possible places on opposite sides of the tree. My revised plan is to take a spherical panorama every few feet during my descent, thereby capturing all limbs which are around me in every direction from a different angle each time. My scaling object is a red and white striped tape which I throw over a limb near the trunk. I get a rope installed at about 25 metres on the southwest side, far out from the trunk and go up.

High up in the southwest side of the tree. Trsteno Arboretum is to the right with the Adriatic beyond.

I stop just below the huge limb and take a moment to enjoy the view. The dappled sunlight on the mottled bark is like some kind of scaled-up desert camouflage. The tree is in its shedding phase and the slightest sea breeze sends dark slabs of bark the size of dinner plates tumbling down the tree leaving bright yellow patches in their place. On the ground the temperature is in the high nineties but up here the leaf mosaic offers almost complete shade while letting the warm air escape upwards and the breeze in from the side. This literally is the coolest place in Trsteno.

I start taking photos up and down the trunk, then following each limb in turn. They are all around me reaching out in every direction and I’m getting disorientated. Trying to not break the sequence I descend a few feet and keep going. Halfway through I reach a limb about 3 feet in diameter and stand on it for a rest.

Back on the ground, it is already late afternoon and Jeroen and Kouta have been measuring the girth (39.7 feet at 1.3m) height (133 feet) and crown spread (over 100ft) of the tree and also its slightly smaller neighbour. Michael Taylor in California should be up now so I call him for advice while Jeroen makes a photoset of the trunk from the ground. Unfortunately I can’t get through as there is a problem with his phone so I decide to repeat the descent from the southwest side and make it more coherent than the first attempt – the rope is still in place and we’re almost out of time today.

The evening is spent at a fish restaurant at Trsteno Harbour. Our table is by the water’s edge and we can’t resist wading about to cool down between courses. I get chatting to a couple at the next table with an academic air about them. They are both Oxford graduates and soon Kouta and I are embroiled in a debate about the semantics of German words. Jeroen is growing restless…

After a fairly pleasant night in our tents at Trsteno campsite, stocking up on the freshest vegetables from the back of a van and 15 frantic minutes searching for my lost wallet and passport (which I find at the bottom of my laundry bag) we are back at the tree. The only other limb I can shoot at without the risk of hitting a car or the glass shelter is on the north side. I’m not so focused today and keep missing as another coachload of tourists come and go.

Eventually my aim improves and up I go again. I’m getting into a routine now and things go more smoothly with this photoset. Before we pack up and drive through Bosnia to Montenegro today I go up one last time to take down the scaling tape and take in the scale of the tree. Will I ever be up here again? Who knows?

15 metres up on the north side.

We continue along the coast road, stopping briefly to look at the ancient walled city of Dubrovnik. It is crammed onto a tiny rocky island surrounded by a wall which looks as though it was intended to stop the inhabitants from falling off the edge into the sea as well as to keep out invaders. It appears to float in the harbour. A cruise liner is approaching – a floating city of the modern kind.

We decide to take the inland route over the mountains from here on. The views won’t be as good but it should be quicker. Another double border to return to Bosnia, this time with an overzealous official who keeps us wondering whether he will decide to search our vehicle and finally waves us on, but not without asking Kouta how much he bought the car for.

About fifteen miles further on we are asked to pull over by two Bosnian police officers. Both are armed, one is probably in his fifties, the other, in his twenties, is taller and slightly menacing with a crew-cut. Kouta is asked to get out of the car. The older officer asks questions while the younger one takes notes. Apparently the yellow board a mile back meant maximum speed 50 kmh. They give Kouta a choice: take the ticket to the nearest police station, pay the fine and drive back to give them the receipt or alternatively, just give them the money now. We are suspicious: it’s possible that we might reach the next border and be asked to pay the fine again because we have no receipt but we decide to pay now and keep going.

Through another border into Montenegro, with no more fines to pay. This small country is aptly named as before long the road begins climbing into the mountains. Dark clouds gather, the temperature drops and a few spots of rain begin to fall. It’s a welcome relief from the heat wave we’ve been in up to now. The wet road winds its way through the steep forested hillsides and under cliffs. In places we have to swerve around rock falls that have spilled out across the road and darkness begins to fall.

At this point Kouta notices the fuel gauge: 60km of fuel left! It seems that this mountain road is at least twice as long as the distance estimated by Google maps. We don’t know exactly where we are on the map but we are somewhere around the middle of this very long, meandering pass. Jeroen says that there will be a long climb followed by a descent before eventually intersecting a highway. There might be a fuel stop somewhere on that highway.

As we climb, the remaining distance on our fuel gauge drops faster than expected: 40km…30km…20km…10km… I’m already making plans for a night in the car, eating the last of the ‘Plazma’ biscuits and hoping that someone will come this way tomorrow and who could help us. With only 5km of fuel left we start the descent. Kouta takes his foot off the gas and we coast downhill. The fuel reading goes up again, reaching 40km but then dropping back when we level off.

We reach the main road, which is still up in the hills, at a hairpin bend. Up the hill to the left is Kolasin, our destination, but it is still a long way. There might be a petrol station along the road to the right in the valley but we don’t know for sure. There are two houses at this bend. A man comes out from the house across the road. Luckily he runs a car repair business and after some negotiation ‘Petrol Man’ agrees to take a jerry can to the nearest petrol station …for a fee.

An old man comes out of the house nearest to us, as does a scrawny cat with mangled, hairless ears, who takes an instant liking to me. The old man, points to a table and chairs on his porch; we sit down. “Pivo?” he says, asking if we want beer. We ask for 1 soc (juice) and 2 Cokes. “3 Cola” is what he repeats back. We give up and say yes. He goes inside and shouts back “Pepsi!” –oh well near enough!

When ’Pepsi Man’ returns we try talking with him to pass the time but he speaks neither English nor German so it is down to Kouta with his few words of Serbian to keep it going. However it soon becomes apparent that he speaks another language entirely but Kouta doesn’t know exactly what it is. There follows the most painfully drawn out conversation I have ever witnessed. As the cat chases moths, Jeroen and I are on the edge of our seats, rooting for Kouta. When Petrol man arrives back over half an hour later Kouta has managed to ask a total of 2 questions: where does Pepsi Man come from, and what is the best way to Tjentste? We still didn’t know the answer to either question for sure.

Relieved that we will have somewhere to sleep tonight we arrive at the small town of Kolasin. Jeroen has called the owner of our guesthouse and we are to meet him in the square. After the simple, traditional villages we’ve seen so far in Montenegro, Kolasin on a Saturday night comes as something of a culture shock. The centre of this small town could be a scene from a Mediterranean resort in high season. It is packed with teenagers and all around are bars and clubs belting out dance music. There is no sign of our patron so I try asking a group of girls if this is ‘The Square’. They don’t seem to understand and the music is very loud. A dog is now sniffing around behind the car while Kouta is trying to turn around so I try to pull it out of the way. The girls lose interest and saunter off. Now our patron has arrived and we follow him to the guesthouse.

It’s now about midnight. “Lydia!” he shouts “Pivo!” and his wife appears. Beers are brought out. None of us have eaten for a very long time. Jeroen points to me and says “he has climbed the biggest tree in Europe today and is very hungry”. “No problem! You want food? No problem!” Lydia brings out a fine spread of bread meats and cheese and as we fill our faces, Lydia talks to us in German and Mr No Problem chews the fat with Jeroen about politics and life under Tito in the 1970’s.
From this point on in the trip, whenever we are asked to do something we reply “No problem!”

Michael Spraggon
by Michael J Spraggon
Sat Nov 10, 2012 8:40 am
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The Perućica Forest reserve in Bosnia Herzegovina

Perućica virgin forest reserve in Sutjeska National Park

In the National Park »Sutjeska« (17,250 ha) the strict forest reserve »Perućica« (1,434 ha) is located. Sutjeska can be found in the southern Dinaric Mountains in Bosnia and Herzegovina, near the border with Montenegro. In this mountainous area altitudes range from 500 m in the Sutjeska river valley to the top of Mount Maglic, 2386 m, the highest peak in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The climate is a mixture of Mediterranean and continental, with high precipitation of 1400 - 2000 mm, depending on altitude and exposition. The Perućica forest reserve mainly lies in the Perućica river basin at the NW slopes of Mount Maglic, between the Sutjeska Canyon at 600 and 1800 m.a.s.l. near Prijevor.
Geology is dominated by limestone on the slopes and cliffs surrounding the reserve and acidic sandstone and shale in the central area. Soils are also diverse and may be derived from a mixture of parent materials, especially were calcareous soils have eroded down slopes. Depending on altitude, slope position and soil conditions different forest associations have developed, different forest associations developed here (more than twenty), ranging from Carpinetum orientalis to Pinetum mughi.

In the lower parts of the reserve, below the Skakavac waterfall, the terrain is very steep. Here at altitudes below 1000 m grow forests of more warmth loving broadleaved trees like eastern hornbeam (Carpinus orientalis), hop-hornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia), Turkey oak (Quercus cerris), downy oak (Q. pubescens) and other oak species, silver lime and large leaved lime (Tilia tomentosa and T. platyphyllos), manna ash (Fraxinus ornus) and common whitebeam (Sorbus aria). Because of lack of time and the steep terrain alas we did not visit this part of the reserve.

The largest and central part of the reserve, between 1000 and 1600 m.a.s.l. is covered by oldgrowth beech - fir forests, European beech (Fagus sylvatica) and European silver (Abies alba) here dominate heavily. Other species growing here are Norway spruce (Picea abies), sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus), wych elm (Ulmus glabra), European ash (Fraxinus excelsior) and near rivers black alder (Alnus glutinosa). Parts of the forest with deep soils are very dense, with large canopy trees up to over 40 m (broadleaves) and 50 m (conifers) and diameters to over 1 meter. In Perućica the famous Swiss forest researcher Hans Leibundgut in 1954 found a Norway spruce of 63 m tall, the tallest reported of this species in Europe.
We concentrated on this part of the reserve as here most record heights could be expected.

At high outcrops and cliffs black pine (Pinus nigra) is the most important tree but also mountain pine (Pinus mugo) is present. More than 170 species of trees and shrubs and over 1,000 species of herbaceous plants have been registered in Perućica.

Perućica is allowed to enter with a guide only. In the reserve there are no landmines from the the Bosnian War, the only area where they may occur is the lower end of the reserve (in Sutjeska Canyon, near the road). We visited Perućica for two days, led by our guide Vlado (Vladimir) Lalović.

The first day we started with the magnificent view over the Perućica valley with its great forest and the Skakavac waterfal from a ridge near Dragos Sedlo.
The area southeast of Dragos Sedlo and just south of the forest road from Dragos Sedlo to Prijevor was appointed to us by Vlado as the part of the Perućica primeval forest with the largest and tallest trees and the highest volume of the stands, up to more than 1000 cubic metre per hectare.
At a small plot Leibundgut found even as much as 1870 m3/ha of living wood. This forest is dominated by silver fir. Also important are beech and Norway spruce.
Other tree species are scarce, we saw a few wych elms as well as sycamore maples along the road. In this part of the forest also stand the "Three Sisters", a group of Norway spruces said to be the largest and tallest trees in Perucica. Actually, the largest of the three had fallen several years ago. According to the director of the Sutjeska National Park, mr. Zoran Čančar, this tree formerly had a height of 62 m (203 ft) and a diameter of 1.7 m / 5.6 ft (girth 5.34 m / 17.5 ft).
The second tallest Sister had been measured in 2005 and then was 54 m tall with a dbh of 1.55 m. Mr. Čančar ensured us there were no silver firs in the Perucica forest of this size.
The top of the second Sister is now dead and we found the tree only 49.5 m tall with dbh of 1.47 m, but we found several other spruces as well as firs which were larger and taller than the Two Sisters. In this area we found a maximum height of 52.0 m for spruce and even 52.9 m for silver fir and girths up to 5.3 m (17.4 ft) for both species.
Next day we went to the area near the confluence of the Perućica and Prijevorski river (1000 - 1100 m a.s.l.); there we found very tall trees of four species. Most slopes here are facing north to northwest and are relatively cool and moist. There are several sources and small rivers, so the trees have shelter and good water supply.
We found a maximum height of 57.4 m (188.3 ft) for Norway spruce (the second tallest of 56.6 m had a broken top and in the past it may have been a few meters taller) and 54.0 m (177.2 ft) for European silver fir. We think the greater hights here compared to the other area can be explained by the exposition: the area near the forest road is on a slope facing southwest to south while the area with the tallest trees is on a west to north facing slope. The tallest trees we find are nearly always on north facing slopes, while these are cooler and less dry in summer. Additionally, the altitude (around 1400 m) of the area near the road is probably too high for record breaking trees.
In the same area we measured for beech heights up to 44.2 m (145 ft), for sycamore maple to 39 m (128 ft).
PerucicaBroken Doublespruce1223.jpg
Largest trees we saw were the second tallest Norway spruce of 56.6 m (185.7 ft) with cbh of 5.28 m (17.3 ft) and a European silver fir of 52.0 m (170.6 ft) with cbh of 5.26 m (17.26 ft).
The volume of both trees we estimated as around 35 cubic m (over 1200 cubic feet).
We had possibility to explore only a small part of the potential record tree groves, so it is possible larger and taller trees can be found in the forest. To find this out several days of exploration of the forests along the Perućica river and the Prijevorski river from 1600 m downwards to the Skakavac waterfall should be necessary. Very helpful should be if there was done LiDAR research from a small airplane.
A few small clearings are scattered in the forest where localized cutting and grazing occurred in the past, but the influence of these areas on the surrounding stands seems to be rather localized.

Jeroen, Kouta & Michael

Leibundgut, H. (1982). Europäische Urwälder der Bergstufe. Dargestellt für Forstleute, Naturwissenschaftler und Freunde des Waldes. Verlag Paul Haupt, Bern und Stuttgart,
ISBN 3-258-03166-5.
Nagel and Svoboda (2008). Gap disturbance regime in an old-growth Fagus–Abies forest in the Dinaric Mountains, Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Konrad Pintarič. Forestry and forest reserves in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
by Jeroen Philippona
Thu Nov 29, 2012 7:30 pm
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Travelogue Part 6: the Perućica Forest Reserve

This week's installment is 2 days early as I'm away this weekend. It covers our most intensive tree hunting of the expedition in one of the finest pristine forests in Europe.

Until next week...


Balkans 2012 Travelogue Part 6.docx

Balkans Tree Expedition Travelogue: Part 6 - the Perućica Forest Reserve

Day 10 continued: Sutjeska National Park.

Back in Bosnia once more, we arrive in Tjentište on June 28th, the 623rd anniversary of the most important date in Serbian history: Vidovdan.

On June 28th 1389 at the epic battle of Kosovo, Saint Prince Lazar and the Serbian army (which included armies from Bosnia and part of what is now Croatia) fought the invading Ottomans led by Sultan Murad I in a fight that would see both leaders killed and massive losses of soldiers on both sides. There were no winners in this battle but for the small region of Serbia who had defended itself against the giant Ottoman Empire, a loss of life on this scale was a devastating blow. This moment is thought of as the beginning of the on-going fight for Serbian independence, a fight which continued for five centuries. The sacrifices made at this battle and the legends that grew around it have become part of Serbian culture and the same unbreakable spirit which enabled them to defend their independence against a much larger oppressor remains to this day in the Serbian consciousness.

As we drive along the valley between steep forested slopes what strikes me is that there are very few buildings and even fewer people around. As we near our destination we pass a deserted triangular building with a glass front, mostly intact but with some broken or boarded-up panels. Jeroen says that this was the visitor centre when he came here in 1976 and 1985.

We pull up outside Hotel Mladost, another sloping modernist building in the old Communist style, run by the Sutjeska National Park. Unlike the similarly styled Hotel Zabljak in Durmitor, this building is far less obtrusive against the backdrop of the steep, forested hillsides. Apart from an elderly lady who is watching us from one of the balconies as we pull our packs out of the car, the hotel appears to be empty. The reception area has some 70’s style seating in the far corner and on the walls, in contrast to the sparse décor, there are poster-sized photographs of beautiful natural scenes from the park. One recurring image is that of a huge waterfall plunging hundreds of feet from amongst the trees.
Our rooms are on the third floor and tucked under the sloping roof, each with a large skylight. I soon join the handle of this skylight to the wardrobe near the door with a length of my tree-climbing throwline to make a Heath Robinson-style washing line as I am again running out of clean clothes. I have a shower before dinner. The water is slightly brown and there is no hot water. I decide that the best (and most cowardly) way to proceed is to apply the soap first and then quickly rinse it off in one quick blast, shrieking like I’m on a rollercoaster – I’m such a wuss!

On the way down to the restaurant we ask the man on reception about the water: he is confident it will be fixed by tomorrow. We order Wiener schnitzels and the local pivo (beer). Both are very good and the waiter is friendly (as was the man at reception). Maybe Hotel Mladost isn’t as austere as my first impressions had led me to believe. Afterwards I retire to my room for an early night but end up watching the film footage Jeroen has taken of my climb of Sgerm Spruce. It was little more than a week ago but it seems like last year.

Day 11

Kouta says he is feeling very excited this morning. While researching this trip, he had found a report from 1954 by the Swiss ecologist Hans Leibendgut of a 63m (207ft) tall Norway spruce growing in the Perućica Forest Reserve, where we will be surveying over the next two days. There are lots of uncertainties though: we don’t know his measuring methods or the exact location of the tree or if it is still standing after 58 years. If we do find the tree and it is 63m tall (or even taller by now) then it will be a monumental find, surpassing the current tallest Norway spruce in the world, the Sgerm spruce, which I climbed and measured only 9 days ago. I will definitely have to climb this one with a tape!

The national park is sending a guide to meet us at 08:00 in the hotel foyer. Vladimir, or Vlado for short, is the ranger for all 1434 hectares of the Perućica virgin forest reserve, and one of just 10 rangers covering the entire national park. He is, I think, in his late twenties, the perfect stereotype of the strong, physically robust, laconic Serb. Unlike many of his compatriots, though, he doesn’t smoke. He speaks only a little English and tells us that Miriana, our translator in our communications with the park so far, is on holiday. Before driving to the Forest Reserve, we go to the National Park Office to meet Mr Zoran Čančar, the Director of the Sutjeska National Park. Vlado shows us into the foyer. There is a row of photographs above a table. Each one is of an employee of the park who was killed in the Bosnian War 1992-95.

As we wait a constant stream of people come and go from the Directors office -he is obviously a very busy man. Finally we are shown in. Mr Čančar enters from a side door. He has a brisk intelligent manner and speaks to us via one of the attendant staff who can speak fairly good English. Our spokesman, Jeroen explains the purpose of our trip and we tell him about Professor Leibendgut’s report of the 63m spruce. Mr Čančar has not seen this tree but draws on a map some possible locations of the tree. Then on a blank sheet of paper he draws two long triangles and then a third triangle at right angles to the other two, before writing numbers beside them. Finally we realise what these hieroglyphics mean: they are the Three Sisters, the tallest known trees in Perućica. Two are still standing but the largest of the three has fallen and is decaying. The second sister was measured some time ago at 54 metres tall but the fallen sister was measured long ago at 62 metres. Could this have been Leibendgut’s tree?

The three of us and Vlado drive up the bumpy track which climbs steeply for a couple of miles up to a parking area high up on the ridge at Dragos Sedlo. The first place Vlado shows us is a viewpoint from the near vertical hillside, looking out through black pines and beech across the steep-sided Perućica valley in the morning sunlight. There, far below on the opposite side of the valley is the 75m (250 ft) Skakavac waterfall, which we saw in the pictures by the hotel reception.

The spectacular Perućica valley and the Skakavac waterfall (centre). L to R: Vlado, J, K

One of the mountains in this panorama is the Maglić massif consists of 2 summits, each in a different country. Veliki Maglić is the highest peak in Bosnia Herzegovina at 2386m, and Crnogorski Maglić on the Montenegrin side is just 2 metres higher. Vlado explains that every year hundreds of Serbs from several countries make the steep and difficult ascent of Maglić on the anniversary of Vidovdan. There will be many people on the mountain making this pilgrimage as we speak.

After taking us to a water source to refill our bottles (it’s surprisingly hot this high up), Vlado leads us down the hillside. The forest here is a mixture of beech interspersed with silver fir and to a lesser extent Norway spruce. Apart from fallen trunks and the steepness of the slope, the undergrowth is sparse and the going is easier than in Biogradska Gora. Soon Vlado points out two tall trees close together and a huge rotting trunk lying beside them: they are the Three Sisters.

The fallen trunk is clearly the thickest of the three. Kouta measures the two standing Sisters. One is only 47m tall and the other, which was reportedly 54m tall, has died back to 49.5m. The girths were 4.34m and 4.61m respectively. There were some other trees we had seen which looked like they could actually be bigger than the two remaining Sisters and we will measure these and others as we move further along the hillside after lunch.

Vlado and Jeroen measuring one of the remaining Three Sisters.

Picnicking on a fallen tree, we are becoming increasingly aware of the cloud of flies who have for some reason adopted Kouta as their leader. He was already popular with their Montenegrin relatives in Biogradska Gora but here he has achieved an almost iconic status and we make him sit on his own while we eat. Kouta has a theory that they might be attracted by the face moisturiser he uses but I think he’s just being modest.
During the afternoon we measure one spruce at 52.0m and another at 49m with a huge girth of 5.34 metres. Perhaps even more surprisingly, I find a thin silver fir of 52.9m (174ft) and another of 52.0m with a girth of 5.26m – I thought silver firs were supposed to smaller than Norway spruces!

The largest-girthed spruce we found in Perućica (5.34m).

By the time we get back to the car it is already past the time that Vlado should have been back at Tjentište. The drive back down the track into the valley seems to go on forever and incredibly I manage to fall asleep as the car rattles and bounces its way down the track. We decide to travel in Vlado’s company 4x4 tomorrow, as Kouta’s car still has to get us back to Slovenia.

We arrive back at the hotel at about 5:30. Vlado has called his wife to say he would be late but we all feel slightly guilty for having kept him from his domestic responsibilities, that is, until he says he’s going to stop for a beer on the way home. I’m not sure if he’s joking either.

There has been a lot of activity at Hotel Mladost today: the water is off and is being fixed at the moment: it will be back on later this evening, and a team of men have almost finished building a wooden pergola covering the dining terrace on the front of the hotel, which this morning had not even been started. Over our pivos on the side terrace, J, K and I watch one of the workmen walking casually across the wooden beams on the edge of the structure, 20 feet above the lawn carrying an electric saw which he is using to cut the ends off the new beams. He would make a good tree climber.

We reflect on the day’s tree hunting. Whilst we have yet to see anything like the 63 metre spruce that Leibendgut had written about, so far in the small area we have surveyed high up on the hillside we have already measured spruce and even some firs which were bigger than the remaining two of the Three Sisters, the biggest trees that the employees of the National Park were aware of up to now.

After dinner we go for a walk along the grassy flood plain beyond the hotel. Up on a hillside terrace is the Tjentište Monument – one of the stark, modernist sculptures commissioned by Tito in the 1960s and 70s. It resembles a pair of giant concrete angel’s wings and commemorates the battle of Sutjeska, which took place here in June 1943. The German-led Axis, consisting of 127,000 troops and 300 aircraft, outnumbered the partisan Yugoslav National Liberation Army by nearly 6 to 1 and completely encircled them on the land between the Tara and Piva Rivers in an offensive lasting a month. Tito was leading the partisans and was himself nearly killed, sustaining an injury to the arm.

Art of the Tito era: the Tjentište Monument.

Against all odds, starving and short of supplies, the partisans managed to break out and push the Axis back across Eastern Bosnia, with the same determination as their ancestors had shown 554 years earlier at the Battle of Kosovo. Jeroen thinks that the monument may be abandoned now but I climb the steps onto the terrace and am pleasantly surprised to find the steps leading up to the monument covered with bouquets of flowers.

Back at the hotel the restaurant is empty now except for the hotel staff. They are glued to the television. There is another Wimbledon match on. This time it’s Federer and he’s having a nightmare in his 4th round match: down two sets and a break in the third. While J & K go to bed, I join them to watch the great man claw his way back. At two sets all I decide to get to bed. Good news: the water is back on and it’s clear. The bad news: it’s still cold – but I’m starting to enjoy the challenge!

Day 12

The workmen are arriving to finish the pergola as we eat breakfast. I get a text from my dad: Federer won.

After a much easier drive than yesterday up the long mountain track, thanks to Vlado’s 4x4, we start as we had done yesterday morning: a visit to the water source and another, even more impressive viewpoint. Vlado points to a large white house at least a couple of miles up the valley. He says he can see Michelle Obama waving to us from the front lawn.

Today we set off in the opposite direction from the parking area, heading further up the valley to explore the area around the confluence of the Perućica and Prijevorski Rivers. A small path takes us down the hillside and we begin finding red ribbons tied to the branches of young beech trees. Someone has been marking their path, leaving a man-made trail in this otherwise pristine forest. Vlado is visibly annoyed. “If we catch up with them we tie THEM to a tree” he says, taking out a hunting knife and cutting the ribbon free. We continue descending the path and I help Vlado remove more ribbons as we go.

The slope levels out for a moment and Vlado points to an almost imperceptible disturbance in the undergrowth, and some mature cherry trees, which are definitely not indigenous to this pristine forest. This was once the humble dwelling of Drago, the old man after whom Dragos Sedlo, where we parked, was named. Jeroen remembers seeing the remains of this hut in 1985. It was long abandoned then but more of it remained. Now, nature has reclaimed this human’s attempt to create order and has all but erased any traces of Drago, except for the living evidence – the cherry trees which would have been the old man’s garden.

Vlado shows us some scratch marks on a trunk by the path. These, he says, were made by a bear. He estimates there are 100 bears and 40 wolves in the Sutjeska National Park but they would most likely stay out of our way so these marks are all we are likely to see.

Kouta begins to stretch ahead, aware of the fact that our visit will soon be over with so much more forest still to survey. Jeroen comes over to me and points to a fat and very tall trunk below us, far thicker and taller than the lesser trees around it. I too have been looking at this tree. It surpasses anything we’ve seen so far and I think of Leibendgut’s 63m spruce again. Jeroen measures it with the laser: 56.6m (186ft). However the top has been broken off and this tree would have certainly been over 60m originally. We scramble down the slope to measure its girth: 5.28m. This is now the largest tree known in Perućica at the moment in terms of height and volume.

Jeroen beside the largest known tree in Perućica (56.6m x 5.28m) .

We catch up with Kouta again and cross the Perućica River, precariously on stepping stones. I untie the last of the red ribbons from a beech on the opposite bank. The path levels out soon afterwards and we sit down for lunch. As an experiment, Kouta has not put any moisturiser on today. The result: no difference whatsoever. All day he has been walking along with a halo of winged admirers, like a cartoon character in a daze after someone has dropped an anvil on his head. Again we make the Bluebottle King dine alone.

After lunch we are finding many spruces between 52m and 55m. Tree hunting on slopes this steep is surprisingly energetic as every time we measure a tree from the path one of us has to scramble down the hillside to help the man with the laser sight the base. He then does the same to measure the girth and take a photo of the discoverer by the trunk and then we both scramble back up again through fallen branches and trunks to the best vantage point to spot the next giant. Kouta teaches Vlado how to use the laser rangefinder and soon he’s measuring everything in sight. I can already see Jeroen and Kouta’s addiction to lasering developing in him! This is his office and thanks to our rangefinders we are finding trees bigger and taller than anyone had previously known.

On the land between the Perućica and Prijevorski Rivers we find the tallest trees so far: the tallest fir (54.0m) and tallest spruce (57.4m) growing close together. The spruce is exceptionally thin with a diameter of little over a metre. Jeroen also finds the tallest beech which is very well spotted, the top being almost impossible to pick out amongst a mosaic of leaves, lit from behind. It is 44.2m (145ft) tall, the 3rd tallest beech measured in Europe and nearly half as tall again as the beeches in the sprawling hillsides of the Chiltern Hills where I grew up and learned my climbing skills.

Kouta decides to head down the hillside to see what the land lower down holds. This will give us an idea of what we might find in the rest of the reserve in future visits. The rest of us cross the Prijevorski River on fallen trunks and find more trees around 55m tall.

I drop back and find a tall scraggly tree of 56.5m, the third tallest in Perućica so far beside a huge broken trunk, balancing 15 feet off the ground on its branches and spot another 56m tree upstream as I cross a small tributary. Vlado has taken Jeroen futher uphill to see a tall stand of beeches. They are now out of sight. I make a high pitched “woo hoo!” and seconds later hear a copycat reply from Jeroen which leads me to them. The beech trees are impressive, again much taller than the ones in the Chiltern Hills but not as tall as the tallest we found earlier.

We have now run out of time and have to turn back. We meet Kouta again. He hasn’t found a taller spruce or fir further down the hillside but has found a very impressive sycamore maple of 39.0m.

Walking back along the path between the two rivers I get a phone call from my dad. My neighbour’s wife has gone into labour and they also mentioned that some men arrived in a white van outside my house yesterday and had the patio doors open! Fearing I had been burgled I ask my dad to find out what has happened. During the next 20 minutes all kinds of scenarios run through my mind but there’s nothing I can do from here. Finally my dad calls back: It was a carpenter who had met my landlord to work on the French doors. My landlord had emailed me about it but I had no way of reading it out here. I can relax again!

As we get back to the car, Kouta’s popularity with the flies of Perućica is at an all-time high. The rest of us get in the car and in an attempt to lose his winged entourage, Kouta takes a run-up at the vehicle from several metres away, jumping in and slamming the door behind him. Only a few of his more dedicated fans have managed to keep up with him and we drive off, listening to Serbian folk music accompanied by the drone of tiny wings.

Our two days spent at Perućica seem to have lasted a week. We never did find Leibendgut’s legendary 63m spruce and I didn’t get to climb anything – there was far too much ground to cover for that. But what we did discover was that there are trees here bigger and taller than anyone had previously thought and we’ve covered only a tiny fraction of the reserve.

A giant double-trunked Norway spruce I found on day 2.

Back at the Hotel Mladost for the third and final time, we buy Vlado a well-deserved pivo. He has been a brilliant guide and hopefully our discoveries will also be of some benefit to the National Park. This evening the hotel, which has been empty so far, is packed with people of all ages, all smartly dressed. The celebration resembles a wedding reception. A large, kind-looking man in his 60’s with an air of authority about him is sitting at the table beside us signing books beside a young boy who I think is his grandson. People are coming up to him and shaking hands or hugging him with affection.

He turns to me and begins talking passionately about the book. Unable to understand a word he is saying but not wanting to interrupt, I gesture awkwardly to Vlado, who with the help of Kouta explains to me that this man was a former police officer who has written a book of twelve poems. During the Bosnian War supplies to the local hospital were cut off and the baby care unit ran out of oxygen. Twelve babies died. Each poem in the book is dedicated to one of those babies. Some girls in their late teens arrive outside the hotel. Had the twelve babies lived they would have been about the same age today. Now I understand the emotion and respect everyone is showing to the author.

My impressions of Sutjeska National Park are of a majestic, unspoiled wilderness, steeped in history and with an overwhelming scale and beauty…but with no one to see it. There have been very few tourists since the war and consequently there is no money, but the employees of the park and the hotel are working hard to restore everything to the way it was. I hope that soon tourists will once again come to experience some of the most impressive virgin forest in Europe. As a climber, I would quite like to come back and climb Maglić…

Michael J. Spraggon

by Michael J Spraggon
Thu Nov 29, 2012 8:28 am
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Amazon Giants Fig Trees Peru report

During my recent trip to Peru for work, I spent time searching for big trees and along with the most massive Ceiba species Lupunas and Wimbas, my Peruvian friends and I found some interesting and huge Fig (Ficus) species. Figs are quite fascinating and are divided into two subgenera: Urostigma which includes trees with aerial roots and often multiple stems or trunks such as the Banyans and hemiepiphytic strangler fig. The other subgenus is Pharmacosycea which is never an epiphyte and is without aerial roots. Members of this sub genus can have immense trunks with long ribbon like buttress and often huge spreading crowns. As there are over 50 species of figs in Peru, most in the Amazon Basin, I was not able to identify species in the time available. Part of the problem is that even if the tree is "in bloom", all the figs keep their flower inside small green balls, so superficially they look the same. The internal flowers are pollinated by wasps which lay eggs in these balls which then will develop into the fruits.
by Bart Bouricius
Sat Dec 01, 2012 5:32 pm
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Re: Amazon Giants Fig Trees Peru report


Actually Manu is sort of expensive to get to but reasonably well protected. There may well be places in the park that are not too hard to get to once you are in the park, and if you are doing research you can get to good places. Madidi in Bolivia may also be good in this respect, and the Tambopata Reserve has some good areas. These are far from where I normally work though and would require extra expense and complicated arrangements. I will take advantage of anything that comes along that furthers my goal of measuring and documenting exceptional trees in the Amazon.
by Bart Bouricius
Wed Dec 05, 2012 3:42 pm
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