World's Largest Trees

Trees Considered The Most Massive, Oldest and Tallest

Trees are the most massive living things and certainly the tallest plants on earth. Several tree species also live longer than any other terrestrial organism. Here are five notable tree species that continue to break giant and large tree records all over the world.

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Bristlecone Pine - The Oldest Tree On Earth

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest near Patriarch Grove.
(Stephen Saks/Lonely Planet Images/Getty Images)

The oldest living organisms on earth are North America's bristlecone pine trees. The species scientific name, Pinus longaeva, is a tribute to the pine's longevity. California's "Methuselah" bristlecone is nearly 5,000 years and it has lived longer than any other tree. These trees grow in harsh environments and only grow in six western U.S. states.

Bristlecone Pine Tree Facts:

  • The oldest bristlecones usually grow at elevations of 10,000 to 11,000 feet.
  • Bristlecone pines grow in isolated groves at and just below the timber line.
  • The bristlecone pines are the oldest single living organisms known.
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Banyan - Tree With the Most Massive Spread

banyan tree
Thomas Alva Edison Banyan Tree. (Steve Nix)

The banyan tree or Ficus benghalensis is known for its massive spreading trunk and root system. It is also a member of the strangler fig family. Banyan is the National tree of India and a tree in Calcutta is one of the world's largest. The crown of this Indian giant banyan tree takes ten minutes to walk around.

Banyan Tree Facts:

  • The first banyan tree in the U.S. was planted by Thomas Alva Edison in Fort Myers, Florida and considered a U.S. champion.
  • A banyan tree, in a 1719 novel by Daniel Defoe, was where Robinson Crusoe makes his home.
  • The Banyan tree is mentioned in many religious scriptures as a tree of immortality.
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Coastal Redwood - The Tallest Tree On Earth

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Sarge Baldy, Wikimedia Commons
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Sarge Baldy, Wikimedia Commons. (Wikimedia Commons)

Coastal redwoods are the tallest organisms in the world. Sequoia sempervirens can exceed 360 feet in height and are constantly measured to find the largest grove and the largest tree. Interestingly, these records are often kept secret to prevent the tree location from becoming public. Redwood is a close relative of Southern baldcypress and the giant sequoias of the Sierra Nevada.  

Coastal Redwood​ Tree Facts:

  • During the Summer of 2006, the tallest redwood, Hyperion, was discovered measuring nearly 380 feet.
  • Forty-one living trees have been measured to be more 361 feet tall.
  • Although coastal redwood can thrive with 25 to 122 inches of rainfall,  the frequent local summer fog essentially reduces the trees' loss of water through evaporation.
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Giant Sequoia - Estimated the World's Heaviest Tree

General Sherman world's tallest tree
General Sherman. (Chiara Salvadori/Getty Images)

Giant sequoia trees are conifers and grow only in a narrow 60-mile strip on the west slope of the U.S. Sierra Nevada. A few rare Sequoiadendron giganteum specimens have grown taller than 300 feet in this environment but it is the Giant sequoia’s huge girth that make it a champion. Sequoias are commonly more than 20 feet in diameter and at least one has grown to 35 feet across.

Giant Sequoia Tree Facts:

  • There are over 70 groves of sequoia in the Sierra, 33 of which are in the Giant Sequoia National Monument.
  • Sequoias are massive and are the largest trees on earth in terms of total wood volume.
  • The largest Sequoiadendron giganteum is the General Sherman located in the Giant Forest Grove.
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Monkeypod - Largest Tree Crown Diameters on Earth

Hitachi tree
The Hitachi tree in Moanalua Gardens in Honolulu, Hawaii. (KeithH/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0)

Samanea saman, or monkeypod tree, is a massive shade and landscape tree that is native to tropical America. The dome-shaped crowns of monkeypods can exceed diameters of 200 feet. The tree's wood is commonly turned into platters, bowls, carvings and are commonly displayed and sold in Hawaii. The tree pods have a sweet, sticky brown pulp, and are used for cattle feed in Central America.

Monkeypod Tree Facts:

  • Monkeypod's natural range is in Central America, reaching from Yucatan Mexico south to Peru and Brazil.
  • Monkeypod, also called raintree, has leaflets that curl at night and on cloudy days, allowing rain to pass easily through the canopy.