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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

This week, facts about... Big trees.


CURWOOD: "A tree cannot grow in the sky," wrote the Roman philosopher Titus Lucretius in the first century BC. Clearly, he never visited the western United States. There seems to be no limit on how high trees can grow there. The tallest tree ever measured still stands in Coos County, Oregon. At 329 feet, the coast Douglas fir is taller than two Statutes of Liberty. The American Forest National Register for big trees gathers this kind of information each year. Volunteers measure candidate trees for height, girth, and crown spread. New champions are discovered all the time, but for overall size, none has yet to come close to General Sherman, a giant sequoia in California. Undisputed champ since the Register began in 1940, General Sherman weighs as much as 360 elephants. It would take 15 people holding hands to reach all the way around its trunk. But the largest living organism known to science isn't a tree. In fact, you probably wouldn't know it if you stepped on it. Six years ago this week, scientists reported the discovery of a fungus that covers 38 acres of a Michigan forest. The fungus weighs nearly 100 tons and is about 10,000 years old. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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