What we can learn from the tallest tree in the world …

This is Hyperion … the tallest known tree in the world.

Photo Credit: James Balog (notice the person in blue)

Composite Photo Credit: James Balog (notice the person in blue)

Hyperion is a coastal redwood that stands just shy of 380 feet … taller than both the Statue of Liberty and the Big Ben clock tower of London.

hyperion-height-comparison-statue-of-liberty-big-ben

Being between 700 and 800 years old, Hyperion knows a thing or two about growth—including a common misconception about trees.

Most of this tree is actually dead.

That’s not to say this tree is dying, or at risk of dying—in fact, apart from some damage caused by woodpeckers, Hyperion seems to be quite healthy.

So what is the reason behind all this dead tissue?

Well, that’s just how trees grow. For many trees—even trees of an average stature—it is common for only about 1% of its mass to be living tissues. This is because the growth pattern exhibited by trees.

The cambium represents the majority of the living tissue within a tree and is the thin layer of dividing cells just under the bark of a tree. It’s this layer that gives rise to the vascular tissues which connect roots to leaves … and it’s because of this constant cell generation that tree trunks grow.

As the cambium generates cells, it pushes itself outward from the center of the trunk while the inner layers die. It’s the accumulation of these dead cells that make a trunk’s girth increase. It’s also the seasonal variations in the growth of these cells that produce tree rings.

Kauri_cells2

Seasonal environmental variations cause the different sized vascular cells which create tree rings.

Give this process several hundred years, and you get one very large tree.

I think we would be wise to take a leaf from Hyperion’s book … so to speak. We can think of trees as constantly renewing themselves, letting die what is no longer necessary so that new growth may take the place of the old.

Everyone has a part of themselves that could be seen as negative … that is holding them back. Be it over-sensitivity, self-criticism, insecurity, pessimism, or my favorite to scrutinize: fear.

But what would it take to let this part of us die … not only let it die, but to replace it with new growth? Let thick skin take the place of oversensitivity … self-praise the place of self-criticism … confidence the place of insecurity … optimism the place of pessimism …

What would it take to let courage take the place of fear?

A decision. A conscious commitment to let that part of us die … and more importantly, to grow something new to take its place.

Trees experience a continual death … but in the interest of a continual life.

If Hyperion had not been constantly dying, it wouldn’t have grown … and it likely would have died itself, hundreds of years ago, outcompeted by neighboring trees.

So let go of that which is holding you back … step forward into growth … and reach new heights.

Hyperion from above the canopy.

Hyperion from above the canopy.

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About Nathan Doneen

I'm currently a mid-20s post college grad trying to find my own niche in the world. I studied biology and environmental science when in school and have since started studying philosophy and theory of mind while trying to write in the midst of it all.

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