photo (by Brett Mifsud) of the world's tallest documented tropical
tree, "Pokok Gergassi Tawau". It is an 88.1 m Shorea
faguetiana (Dipterocapaceae). Tom Greenwood, Brett Mifsud and
I measured it with a tape drop in Sabah, Malaysia September 2005.
Pictured are James Aldred on the left and Roman Dial on the
25, 2005 13:16 PDT
A few years (October 29 and 30, 2002) ago BVP posted a
the Rucker Index for Borneo would make his list of places that
Well, we now have the data to show that the current Rucker Index
Sabah, the Malaysian state of northern Borneo (26,000 sq miles
is 256.15 feet. This puts Borneo on the short list of places
250 feet, above Washington and below Australia (although the
posted is likely out of date by now for actual numbers).
We (including Australian big tree hunter Brett Mifsud and
Tom Greenwood) were sponsored by National Geographic and so can
publicly describe our results just yet.
Of 17 species from 4 families in Sabah that we have measured
Impulse 200 LR and tape drop methods, 15 species from 3 families
over 200 feet, and 6 species from 2 families are over 250 feet.
The lowland tropical rain forests where these tall trees grow
marvelously diverse. Their climate reminds me of the USA's
seaboard during midsummer, with similar temperatures, humidity,
more noisy cicadas species and near West-coast sized trees. The
trees of Borneo are all hardwood and so their crowns make for
fun climbing as well.
26, 2005 22:33 PDT
on a recent trip to Borneo I heard of a new conservation
called Imbak Canyon Conservation Area in Sabah.
of the cool NW, BVP and Steve Sillett are not hot
weather people, clearly, so I invited the two Australians, Tom
Brett, to go to Imbak in search of tall trees. The idea was to
really tall trees and encourage more stringent protection of the
Conservation Area (which could still be logged), similar to what
happened in the early 1960's when Nat Geo sponsored exploration
area that became Redwoods NP in CA. A noble cause for some good
hunting and climbing.
So we spent a week in Imbak, flying in by helicopter and hiring
to carry our food. A grand adventure....Unfortunately the
in Borneo where not there in Imbak, although the buttreses were
beautiful, and numerous. The rucker Index was 70.7 m or 231.96
Imbak, pretty good for an area sampled that was 675 hectares.
but the Koompassia ( on most Borneo Ruckers) were found in a 54
After Imbak we went 100 km east to Tawau to check the reputed
Koompassia of all, one whose label at its base in the private
plantation said 90 m -- alas as everyone who measures tall trees
the true height was less -- far less, by 8 m.
The tallest trees we found less than 2 km away in Tawau Hill
27,000 hectare Sabah State Park that was established in a sea of
cocao plantations to protect the water supply there. Most of it
selectively logged, but we found a small 1 or 2 hectare patch
trees of four different species that each reached over 80 m. We
there is a 90 m tree in there and **know** there's one very
Anyway 70-80 m Koompassias are quite common in the surrounding
plantations, standing as giant, white ghosts of the former glory
Dipterocarp lowland tropical rainforests there. They were spared
becasue their high silica content dulls milling blades, they are
favorite nesting site of the giant Asian honey bee (Apis dorsata,
nests there because Malaysian sun bears and other climbing
can't climb the smooth, hard bark, although people pound pegs
trunk and climb rattan ladders to collect honey), and the locals
that Koompassia trees are favored haunts of forest spirits.
Tawau has very tall trees and is known to historically have had
tallest trees due to the basalt soils there, which are very rare
Borneo. These soils make Tawau the richest palm oil producing
Sabah, the state which is the richest oil palm producer in
which is apparently the best oil palm producing country in the
The main nuisance, however, are the very active land leeches.
week-old bites itch, my socks are blood stained, and I can feel
disgust of discovery as red blood pours down my leg.
26, 2005 09:01 PDT
Can we ask you to give us a little
biograophical sketch of yourself?
We're absolutely blown over by your report and honored that you
shared the Rucker information on Borneo with us. Where all do
you go to
study/climb/measure great trees? Please tell us.
In this era of planetary forest shrinkage,
areas such as you identify
are true treasures. Their inaccessibility to the general public,
the technical difficulties of getting accurate tree dimension
them, puts these tropical forest gems in a class all by
can only visualize the size of the insects, spiders, and snakes
must come across. Wow! My hat is off to you.