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Great discovery of "tree hunters" on the last day of 2022

What do botanists do after hours? One of our Institute colleagues, Łukasz Wilk, spends a large part of his free time tracking forest giants – trees that stand out with their record-breaking sizes or interesting shapes. Enthusiasts of this form of activity are commonly referred to as "tree hunters", and they can be found in many places around the world, also in our country. Hunters track their "game" by scouring various corners of the Earth, from primaeval forests to rural wilderness to urban areas. They either work on a random basis, relying on their own instincts, or in a more organized way, using available sources of information, including databases, especially maps of forest stands available on the Forest Data Bank website, or the recently created Map of Trees™ website, which contains images of the surface shape of tree crowns created using airborne laser scanning (LIDAR technology). Equipped with such knowledge, the tree hunter sets off into the field and, using a measuring tape and a laser rangefinder, searches for potential record holders regarding trunk height and circumference. Such expeditions often take place outside of the growing season, when leafless trees facilitate exploration and measurement. The data collected in the field are verified and entered into international (e.g. Monumental Trees) and national (e.g. Polish Monumental Trees Register, PMTR) online registers specially created for this purpose.

On the last day of 2022, Łukasz Wilk and his brother Przemysław, with whom he shares his passion, "hunted" a real forest giant. Penetrating the forest ravines of the Rożnów Foothills, they reached the vicinity of the village of Dąbrówka Szczepanowska (near Tarnów), where they came across a huge beech (the specimen grows in the Pleśna forestry in the Gromnik Forest District). With the intensifying wind and dusk falling quickly in winter, they managed to make the first measurements. According to cautious estimates, the beech measured 48 m. Two weeks later, the explorers returned to the forest in the company of another tree hunter, the very initiator of the aforementioned PMTR database, Piotr Gach, and in more favorable light conditions, in calmer weather, they repeated the measurements of the trunk circumference and height – the latter was finally determined to be 48.6 m. Thus, the beech from Dąbrówka Szczepanowska turned out to be the tallest known deciduous tree in Poland, inferior in height to only three of the measured beech specimens in the world!

Congratulations on the discovery!

Łukasz Wilk already has many other valuable "trophies" to his credit. Below is a list of the most important ones:

  • The second tallest tree and the second tallest green Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii menzesii; oceanic/lowland variety) in Poland – circumference 2,72 m, height 58,3 m.
  • Six of the ten tallest trees in Poland (Douglas firs).
  • The world's fifth tallest silver fir (Abies alba) named Stadnicki's Silver Fir Tree, Poland's tallest tree, the second tallest tree native to Poland – circumference 4,1 m, height 54,6 m.
  • Nineteen out of twenty-seven tallest (over 50 m) silver fir trees found in Poland so far.
  • The tallest European larch (Larix decidua) in Poland, one of the eight tallest European larches in the world – circumference 2 m, height 50,6 m.
  • All six tallest beeches (Fagus silvatica) in Poland.
  • The tallest common ash (Fraxinus excelsior) in Poland, the seventh tallest common ash in the world – circumference 1,59 m, height 45,5 m.
  • The tallest Weymouth pine (Pinus strobus) in Poland and Europe – circumference 2,18 m, height 45,5 m.
  • The tallest pedunculate oak (Quercus robur) in Poland and the world – circumference 4,03 m, height 43,8 m.
  • The third tallest Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) in Poland – circumference 2,65 m, height 40,5 m.
  • The second tallest specimen of common ivy (Hedera helix) in Poland and the world – circumference 0,19 m, height 25,2 m.
  • Poland's second tallest, world's fifth tallest European bird cherry (Padus avium) – circumference 1,19 m, height 19 m.
  • Poland's second tallest hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) – height 10,8 m.
  • Poland's third tallest common hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) – circumference 1,37 m, height 30,1 m.
  • Poland's second tallest, world's third tallest grey alder (Alnus incana) – circumference 1,4 m, height 26,7 m.
  • Poland's second tallest wild cherry (Prunus/Cerasus avium) – circumference 1,65 m, height 28 m
  • Five of the ten tallest wild cherry trees.
  • Poland's second tallest western redcedar (Thuja plicata) – circumference 2,61 m, height 31,5 m.

The tallest beech tree in Poland – the latest find of "tree hunters".
Photo: Łukasz Wilk.

Searching for forest giants in one of the backwoods of the Carpathian Forest (Pieniny Mountains).
Photo: Łukasz Wilk.

A magnificent silver fir tree in the "Baniska" reserve in Beskid Sądecki Mountains – measuring the circumference of the trunk at breast height.
Photo: Łukasz Wilk.

Silver fir tree in the reserve "Szeroka" in the Beskid Mały Mountains – height measurement using a laser rangefinder.
Photo: Łukasz Wilk.

A monumental beech tree in the backwoods of the Bieszczady National Park.
Photo: Łukasz Wilk.

Among the magnificent silver fir trees of the "Dyrbek" reserve (Słonne Mountains).
Photo: Łukasz Wilk.

A group of monumental silver fir trees in the reserve "Baniska".
Photo: Łukasz Wilk.

It was a beech tree – a fallen giant from the reserve "Baniska" in the Beskid Sądecki Mountains.
Photo: Przemysław Wilk.

This time too late, that is, let's hurry to measure trees – the trunk of a magnificent silver fir tree in the Bieszczady National Park.
Photo: Łukasz Wilk.

The tallest known pedunculate oak tree in the world with its explorers; under St. Martin's Mountain in Tarnów.
Photo: Piotr Gach.

The tallest "trophy" on Łukasz Wilk's list of finds – a giant Douglas fir (near the village Odrzykoń, near Krosno), the second tallest tree in Poland.
Photo: Łukasz Wilk.

Probably the tallest native tree in Poland, named by the discoverers as "Stadnicki's Silver Fir" in the reserve "Baniska" (Beskid Sądecki Mountains) and barely visible from this distance, a "measure" (human figure) at its base.
Photo: Łukasz Wilk.

Przemysław Wilk, brother of Łukasz, at the base of the trunk of the largest known silver fir tree in the Bieszczady Mountains.
Photo: Łukasz Wilk.

One of the "tree hunters" by the huge silver fir tree, near the village of Suche Rzeki in the Bieszczady National Park.
Photo: Łukasz Wilk.

Man and forest giant – Łukasz Wilk next to a huge silver fir tree (Suche Rzeki, Bieszczady National Park).
Photo: Przemysław Wilk.

The tallest of the silver fir trees found by the Wilk brothers on the steep slopes of the Pieniny Mountains.
Photo: Łukasz Wilk.

Forest giant in its entirety – view from afar on the over 50-meter silver fir tree in the reserve "Baniska" (Beskid Sadecki Mountains).
Photo: Łukasz Wilk.

The tallest known Weymouth pine tree in Europe discovered by the road to the reserve "Baniska" (near the village of Rytro, Beskid Sądecki Mountains).
Photo: Łukasz Wilk.

Information board in the Babia Góra National Park at the place where the famous "Thick Fir", one of the largest known trees within the Polish borders, grew.
Photo: Łukasz Wilk.

The reconstructed trunk of the "Thick Fir" (Babia Góra National Park).
Photo: Łukasz Wilk.