Are you thinking of visiting the Hyperion, the tallest tree in the world? think again – The New York Times | Gmx Pharm

For hundreds of years, a tree called the Hyperion has stood quietly among its fellow giants deep in Northern California’s Redwoods National and State Park. Hyperion, a Coast Redwood, is not accessible by paths and can only be reached by winding through thick vegetation and crossing a river.

A deluge of travel bloggers, tree lovers, and recreational climbers made it anyway — damaging the surrounding scrub in the process. As a result, the National Park Service has closed access to Hyperion, which at 379.1 feet is the world’s tallest living tree.

Now, under a rule passed this year, anyone who gets too close could face up to six months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

“I hope people understand that we’re doing this because our focus is on protecting resources and keeping visitors safe,” said Leonel Arguello, the park’s resource manager.

Mr Arguello said the Parks Service’s decision to issue a rule restricting access to the tree came after an increase in people forged their own paths and climbed the tree. Large amounts of garbage and human excrement had also been found in the area.

Under the rule, which went into effect in March but drew widespread attention after SFGATE wrote about it over the weekend, people will be banned from within a square mile of the tree, Mr Arguello said. The park service will regularly send out rangers to patrol the area, he noted.

The tree’s remote location makes access difficult for emergency services, Mr Arguello said.

Mr Arguello said no one had yet been arrested or fined as a result of the new rule. He added that while $5,000 is the maximum fine under the rule, parking attendants would likely first ask intruders to leave the area or issue a $150 ticket.

Redwood trees are among the tallest and oldest trees on earth, dating back to the Jurassic period about 200 million years ago. Hyperion was discovered by two naturalists in 2006 and confirmed by Stephen Sillett, a redwood expert.

There’s a certain irony in Hyperion’s popularity, observers say.

Despite its “master height”, according to Mr. Arguello, it is not worth the hike: up close you can only see the first 50 meters above the ground. Above it, only the lower branches are visible.

“It’s the most nondescript tree you’ll ever see,” he said. “I’ve worked at this park for 33 years now, I’ve seen most of the old stock at this park and this particular tree isn’t that impressive at the base. It’s just really big.”

He added, “If you can’t see the top 150 feet of a tree, it doesn’t matter how tall it is.”

But the mystery of what’s above those lower 150 feet is partly what draws some visitors.

Young sequoias are conical in shape, said William Russell, a professor of environmental studies at San Jose State University. But as they get older, the trunks mature into a cylindrical shape with thick branches towards the canopy, making them “really attractive to climbers,” Mr. Russell said.

It is forbidden to climb any of the park’s trees for any purpose other than research. But Mr. Russell said he had heard about recreational climbing in Redwood National Park for a number of years. Illegal climbing is “really problematic” for the tree and its surroundings, Mr Russell said, but “climbers are the least of it.” Climate change and commercial deforestation remain constant pressures on the fragile system, Mr Russell said.

Sequoias require moisture from coastal fog to keep their canopies moist. “The more coastal fog you have, the better off you are as a coast redwood,” said Mr. Russell. The canopies of trees like Hyperion are fragile ecosystems, Mr Russell said: The canopies are more drought-stressed and also rich in entire mini-forests of vascular plants and nests of marmots, an endangered seabird.

Lucy Kerhoulas, associate professor of forest physiology at California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, described monument trees such as redwoods, spruce and Douglas fir as “an arms race for light.” But a particular tree’s microsite—its soil composition, species, and location—can make all the difference in its height. Hyperion is near a creek and on a sheltered northern slope.

Ms. Kerhoulas has noted an increase in “love of trees” when it comes to redwoods, but for hikers hoping to see a “glamorous, big, gorgeous” tree, she said Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park is ” a much better use of time and energy.”

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