Unnamed redwood tree mistaken as the world’s tallest tree
CLAIM: A video shows Hyperion, the tallest tree in the world.
AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The video shows a different, shorter tree, which is located in Humboldt Redwoods State Park in California. Hyperion — which is the nickname for the coast redwood that is the tallest tree in the world — is located more than 70 miles away in Redwood National Park, according to forestry experts.
THE FACTS: Social media users are sharing a video claiming it’s Hyperion, which is a 380-foot (115-meter) coast redwood tree. The video shows a tree towering over a forest, as the camera slowly pans to the top.
“This is Hyperion, a California redwood thought to be the tallest tree in the world,” reads a Twitter post sharing the video, which received more than 100,000 likes on Twitter as of Friday.
While Hyperion is considered the tallest tree, this video doesn’t show it.
The image in the video was taken by photographer Michael Nichols for National Geographic. That smaller tree is located in Humboldt Redwoods State Park in California, whereas the Hyperion is located more than 70 miles away in a remote area of Redwood National Park.
The image was posted on National Geographic’s Twitter account on April 27, and the caption reads, “The largest patch of old growth redwood forest remaining, Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California, USA.” It was also featured in a National Geographic story about the effects of climate change on trees and forests. Nichols and National Geographic did not respond to requests for comment.
Hyperion is still considered the tallest tree in the world, according to Lucy Kerhoulas, an associate professor of forest physiology at California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt. Kerhoulas confirmed that the image being shared online captures the Humboldt Redwood State park, and that the tree it shows is not the Hyperion.
She explained that this tree is just an old redwood tree surrounded by a second-redwood forest, which is a forest that was logged and now has re-grown. Second-growth redwood forests can range from young to more mature, and young forests are typically less than 150 years old, Kerhoulas explained.
Robert Van Pelt, the tree consultant for the Guiness Book of World Records and an affiliate assistant professor at the University of Washington, told the AP that the Hyperion remains the tallest tree. Aerial Lidar scanning, a type of technology used for surveying and mapping, has not discovered any taller trees, Van Pelt said.
“Of course, trees grow,” said Van Pelt who is also the author of “Forest Giants of the Pacific Coast,” which chronicles the largest individual trees in western North America. “But currently it will be 10 years or more until any of these trees could catch the height of Hyperion, plus Hyperion itself is still growing.”
Paul Ringgold, chief program officer for Save the Redwoods League, which is a non-profit organization aimed to protect redwoods, noted that Hyperion is surrounded by trees that are nearly as tall. It is not isolated like the one in the video.
“This was likely taken in Humboldt County, but it looks like a photo of one remaining ancient tree surrounded by a younger forest,” Ringgold said.
According to the National Park Services, Hyperion is not on a trail and is located through dense vegetation which requires heavy ‘bushwhacking’ in order to reach the tree. Park officials have declared the remote area off-limits because of damage done by trampling visitors to the tree and surrounding forest, the AP reported last year.
This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.