Monumentality

Eucalyptus regnans, also known as the Tasmanian Oak, is a species of eucalypt native to southeastern Australia. It is the tallest of all flowering plants. The tallest measured living specimen, named Centurion, stands 320 feet tall in Tasmania. Sixteen living trees in Tasmania have been reliably measured in excess of 295 feet.

The tallest specimens encountered by early European settlers are now dead as a result of fire, logging and advanced age. Old records of logged trees make varied claims of extreme heights, but these are difficult to verify today.

In 1872, the Inspector of State Forests, William Ferguson, reported trees in great number and exceptional size in areas where loggers had not yet reached. He wrote of one fallen specimen in the Watts River watershed measuring 435 feet with a trunk 18 feet in diameter, forming a bridge across a deep ravine.

It has long been believed that while many species of eucalyptus successfully survived severe bushfires, forests of Eucalyptus regnans are highly susceptible to destruction by fire. While the process of recovery of most eucalyptus forests is rapid, in the case of Eucalyptus regnans, the recovery of a forest after a severe fire might require the total regrowth from seed of the devastated area, taking perhaps 200 years or more.

Although its status as a species is secure, old growth forests of Eucalyptus regnans are particularly susceptible to destruction by forestry. For this reason stands of very old and very tall trees exist only in pockets. Very few such stands of trees fall within those areas that have been listed as National Park or World Heritage environments. Most lie within areas controlled by state forestry management authorities and their heritage value is balanced against the commercial value of harvesting and then planting fast growing and more productive monoculture timber crops on these comparatively well watered and fertile areas.

Great controversy surrounds the logging of old growth Eucalyptus regnans in its natural range in both Victoria and Tasmania. Aside from its symbolic significance as the largest eucalypt of all, Eucalyptus regnans has value to conservationists and provides essential habitat to important birds and mammals. In a land of vast, arid plains and desert, the contrasting lush fertility of forest is particularly dear to nature lovers.

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