Researchers exploring a remote valley on Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain, have discovered a towering tree that reaches more than 260 feet into the sky. That's enough to make it the new record holder for the tallest tree on the entire continent of Africa, reports New Scientist.
The giant specimen is a Entandrophragma excelsum, a rare species that is typically found in upland semi-deciduous forest, and it might be more than 600 years old. Researchers first noted the mammoth size of some of the valley's trees during an expedition 20 years ago, but the location's remoteness kept the true height of its vegetation a secret until researchers recently found their way back there.
In all, 32 specimens were measured with laser instruments, with the 10 tallest each registering more than 190 feet. The record-breaking tree is still significantly shorter than the world's tallest tree — a coastal redwood in Northern California that measures in at more than 379 feet — but it's still impressive considering its location. Africa is not a continent typically known for its towering trees.
The trees in this valley are nurtured by rich volcanic soils, high temperatures and higher-than-normal levels of precipitation, which undoubtedly helps them to reach such great heights.
“They are like a city in the forest,” described Andreas Hemp, one of the team's researchers.
Their isolated location also helps them to grow for another reason: they are relatively safe from logging efforts that have decimated forest habitat elsewhere. The grove of trees lies outside the borders of Kilimanjaro National Park, which means they're still vulnerable. But their discovery could lead to a park expansion that encompasses the grove and keeps the trees safe.