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Brexit makes 130-year-old Douglas fir in Loire tallest tree in the EU

The tree was re-measured by specialist climbers this week and claims the title which was previously held by a tree in Scotland

A worm’s eye view of tall Douglas fir trees

Douglas firs can grow up to 25cm per year and live for up to 500 years Pic: AlineBehrendt Photography / Shutterstock

The title of the tallest tree in France (and of the EU) has been given to a 130-year-old Douglas fir situated in the Loire (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes) and calculated to be 66.48m tall.

The tree is near the city of Renaison and was planted in 1892. Douglas firs can grow as much as 25cm per year (one metre every four years), and can live for as long as 500 years.

Retired foresters Philippe Glatz and Yves Perrin told France 3: “Last September, the A.R.B.R.E.S association classified the tree as ‘Arbre remarquable de France’ [Remarkable Tree of France]. With this label, our pine centenarian is now recognised as a national and cultural treasure of our heritage.”

The A.R.B.R.E.S association was created in 1994 by a group of nature-lovers, with the aim of highlighting “remarkable” trees in France and promoting and protecting them as part of the country’s natural heritage.

The pair added that “thanks to Brexit”, the Renaison tree can now claim the title of “tallest tree in Europe”. 

This is because the Loire tree technically competes with a Douglas fir in Reelig Glen, near Inverness in Scotland which was measured at 66.4m in 2016 by Forestry Commission Scotland and named as the UK’s tallest tree. It will now likely be considerably taller.

Updated measurement climb

At the previous count, the Renaison tree was 60.40 tall, but a new project to take an updated reading revealed it to be 66.48m.

The new measurement was carried out by two tree climbing experts, Enzo Bourgeois and Baptiste Cordenod from Lyon, who are well known for filming their exploits and posting them on YouTube. They camped under the tree and prepared the ground ahead of the measurement. 

They had previously attempted to reach the tree’s summit but were forced to stop six metres from the top due to strong winds. 

During this new attempt, the climbers’ first challenge was to reach the “first branch” of the tree, which is found 35m off the ground. They did not use crampons or other tools that could damage the tree, and instead used ropes.

The duo reached the top of the tree after 40 minutes of climbing, and stopped at 63.10m, as high as they could go. They then used lasers to confirm that the very top of the tree was 3.38m away. This resulted in a total measurement of 66.48m.

Mr Bourgeois and Mr Cordenod said: “We climb [trees] throughout France, Europe and the world, to make young and old aware of nature and the trees that surround us.

“[And] we know this tree well! The last time we wanted to climb it, we had to stop 6m from the top: too much wind, too dangerous...But we loved taking up this challenge.”

The potential 500-year lifespan of Douglas firs means that despite being Europe’s tallest, this tree has a lot more growing to do.

Related articles

More than 200,000 trees being planted for future forest outside Paris 

Shade and chic: France's history of planting trees in a row 

This Normandy village is home to a 1,200-year-old oak tree

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