Measuring an almighty 81.5m in height, Africa’s tallest tree has been discovered in a perhaps unlikely location: on Mount Kilimanjaro. The finding is especially unlikely as Africa has few trees over 80m; a striking lack of giant trees as they are found in many places all over the world.
As Kilimanjaro is the continent’s tallest mountain, it appears that this tree could not actually be in a more appropriate location.
The tree is of the Entandrophragma Excelsum species and since the discovery, scientists have urged for the protection of the valleys in which it was found. This is due to the fact that the species of tree – often including those that are more than 600 years old – is extremely rare and usually found upland in semi-deciduous forests.
Large trees are a vital part of Kilimanjaro’s vibrant ecosystem as they provide shelter for ferns and a number of other plants that grow on them for physical support. The trees in the valley where the tallest tree in Africa was found are nurtured by rich volcanic soils, soaring temperatures and above average levels of precipitation. This combination pushes them towards reaching the heights they do.
It was twenty years ago when researchers first realised the sheer size of some of the valley’s trees. Due to the aloofness of the location and the difficulty met with access, the truths about the trees were not discovered until recently.
Andreas Hemp, one of the team’s researchers, said that the trees “are like a city in the forest”.
While Africa’s tallest tree is not the world’s tallest, we should all still care about the threat it faces. Illegal logging has long been a cloud hanging over their habitat. Consequently, the research team has proposed that the valleys home to the giants should be included in the Kilimanjaro National Park for legal protection.