According to the Guinness Book of Records, the world’s tallest-ever cut Christmas Tree stood in a shopping centre in Seattle in the United States of America in December 1950. This record-breaking tree was a 67.36 metres (221 feet) Douglas Firs, Pseudotsga menziesii. This height surpasses any of the famous Christmas trees that have stood at the Rockefeller Center in New York or Trafalgar Square in London. I found stated measurements of 82 feet for the former and 68 feet for the latter. If you look at pictures of the transportation for these huge Christmas trees in America, it seems highly unlikely that British cities with their narrow, meandering roads could ever beat the record.
A Giant Toothpick?
Further investigation reveals that the 1950 record-breaker travelled 70 miles to the city. It was believed to be up to 287 years old and weighed 50,000 lbs. Transporting such a huge tree was obviously problematic. Their solution was to cut off all its branches and transport it looking like a giant toothpick. Just a tuft remained at the top of the trunk. On arrival in Seattle, the branches were reassembled on the tree. It seems that Guinness World Records may have made a typographical error in the height. It should read 212 feet rather than 221 feet. The Seattle Christmas was even covered in a short piece in Life magazine.
There are numerous rivals for the crown this year but no cut tree seems to come close. The 249-foot tree in Lisbon, Portugal must be discounted because it is artificial, although it could displace the official Guinness record of Singapore’s artificial record of 2016 at 72.1 meters or 236 feet 6.58 inches. Dortmund in Germany boasts a 150-foot tree, but it is actually made of 1,700 Red Spruce trees, Picea rubens, on a metal frame. Even with the backing of the two living Popes, the 2,000-foot Christmas tree in Gubbio, Italy cannot claim the cut tree record. After all, however creative, it is the outline of a tree in lights on a hillside and not a real tree.
California Falls Short
At least there is a real Christmas tree in Enid, California. However, at 140 feet, it falls well short of Seattle’s 1950 tree. It may yet fall even shorter if it goes the same way as its predecessor. Enid’s 2021 tree was shortened to 119 feet by a storm.
So the Douglas Fir reigns supreme. It is not a tree that we would consider using as a Christmas tree in the UK. However, it does have a Scottish connection. The Douglas Fir was introduced to Britain in 1827 by the Scottish botanist, David Douglas (1799-1834). The tree’s botanical name Pseudotsuga menziesii actually commemorates another Scottish botanist, Archibald Menzies (1754-1842). Menzies was the first European to discover the tree in 1792 in British Columbia.
The Douglas Fir is an important commercial tree in the USA. The tree’s advantage is its fast growth rate for timber production. In its native North America, it can grow over 330 feet high. In Britain, the tallest trees are between 200 and 210 feet.
Scone Douglas Fir
The Scone Douglas Fir, which was planted from the first seeds that Douglas brought back from the Pacific Northwest of America in 1827, still stands on the Scone Estate in Scotland near his birthplace.
References and Further Reading
- Curiocity (2022): Did you know? Seattle once had the world’s tallest Christmas tree. 2 December 2022.
- Dougherty, Phil (2021): Northgate Center lights the world’s tallest Christmas tree – a 212-ft Douglas Fir – on November 24, 1950. History Link. 26 November 2021.
- Forgione, Mary (2019): Los Angeles: 25 dazzling facts about what just might be the world’s tallest Christmas tree. Los Angeles Times. 13 December 2019.
- Guinness World Records (2022): Tallest Christmas tree.
- Guinness World Records (2022): Largest artificial Christmas tree.
- Kong-Perring, Sharon (2022): This Is Where You Can Find The 10 Tallest Christmas Trees in the World. The Travel.
- Los Angeles Times (2019): Los Angeles: 25 dazzling facts about what just might be the world’s tallest Christmas tree.
- Miles, Archie (2006): The Trees that made Britain. BBC Books.
- Scone Palace (2022): Explore the Palace.
- Stokes, Jon & Rodger, Donald (2004): The Heritage Trees of Britain & Northern Ireland. Constable & Robinson, London.
Karen does not seek or receive any commercial interest or advantage from this blog. She is not promoting any business venture. She simply loves to share fascinating facts about plants. These pages illustrate her love of plants, botany, biodiversity, gardens and creative expression. There is always so much to learn about plant diversity. This blog is designed as a showcase for photography, commentary on plants and wildlife, gardens and other places visited, horticulture and related topics. Viewpoints are her own, not those of her employer.