South Africa now holds the records for the highest tree in Africa and the highest planted tree in the world.
The saligna gum (Eucalyptus saligna) tree known as Fourth Kin in the Magoebaskloof state forest, measured at 83,7m, according to Leon Visser, an arborist who served on the Champion Tree Evaluation Panel of the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries.
“Fourth Kin is now the tallest tree ever measured in Africa, and the tallest planted tree on the planet. Fourth Kin is a South African champion tree and was planted by forestry pioneer AK Eastwood in 1906.
“Champion trees are individual trees that are important examples of their species because of their enormous size, great age, rarity or historical significance,” he explained.
According to Visser, three trees were formerly regarded as the tallest in the area, and were known as the Magoebaskloof Triplets. However, due to their extreme height and their close proximity to each other, it was difficult to determine which was the tallest.
During a recent expedition to the Magoebaskloof state forest, an attempt was therefore made to measure Fourth Kin, growing next to the triplets.
“This tree has been named the Fourth Kin, linking it by name to the former record-holding triplet trees. The closest competitors are a mahogany (Entandrophragma excelsum) of 81,5m found in a remote valley in Tanzania and a mountain ash (Eucalyptus regnans) of 82,25m in the Orokonui Ecosanctuary in New Zealand,” he added. The mahogany is now the second tallest tree in Africa, while the mountain ash is now the second tallest planted tree in the world.
The climbers involved in measuring the tree managed to catapult ropes across Fourth Kin’s high branches, and from there across even higher branches using a very large catapult.
Ascending the Fourth Kin from the ground would have been almost impossible as its upper branches were hidden by plant growth lower down.
“A thin weighted line was shot up about 40m high, followed by a climbing line being pulled through an anchor point, and up we went,” said Visser.