The northernmost and southernmost trees

Where are the northernmost and southernmost naturally-growing trees in the world? I thought it would be easy to find the answer, but it turn out, not so much.

Northernmost

The northernmost trees are most certainly Dahurian larch (Larix gmelinii) trees growing in north central Russia. They are apparently somewhere in the marked region below, or close to it.

extremetrees1

(Map images are from OpenStreetMap, see copyright info.)

But it’s hard to get a straight answer about exactly where they are. Northern Hemisphere explorers seem to care more about forests than about individual trees, and they aren’t always careful to be clear about which of those things they’re talking about.

A forest called Ary-Mas is sometimes said to be the “northernmost forest”, even though it is not the northernmost forest by any sensible definition of the term. Apparently, it has the northernmost southernmost point of any forest. Its actual northernmost point is 72.47118° N 102.24426° E.

The Lukunsky grove has the northernmost northernmost point of any forest, which is what any normal person would mean when they ask for the northernmost forest. Its northernmost point is 72.52524° N 105.15061° E.

But there are trees north of both of these. For example, Google Earth has pretty good imagery of Ary-Mas, and you can see individual trees northeast of Ary-Mas across the river.

Now we have to worry about the definition of “tree”. The most credible source I found says there are vertically growing Dahurian larch trees at 72° 55′ 07″ N 106° 08′ E, which if accurate might be the best answer. But it also says there are “creeping forms” of Dahurian larch growing as far north as 73° 04′ 32″ N 102° 00′ E. (I know I’m mixing different coordinate styles. Sorry.)

Northernmost in the Western Hemisphere

The northernmost trees in the Western Hemisphere are reported to be white spruce trees growing at the Mackenzie River delta in Canada. Unfortunately, that’s a pretty big place, and I don’t have any more precise coordinates. The Mackenzie River delta extends as far north as about 69° 42′ N.

extremetrees3

Southernmost

Though I was less successful at finding the southernmost trees, I can confidently state that they are on one of the islands at the southern tip of South America, between 55° and 56° south latitude. Note that trees don’t grow nearly as far south they do north. 72° south latitude is well inside Antarctica, and there are no trees in Antarctica.

The southernmost trees are usually reported to be Nothofagus antarctica (Antarctic beech) trees on the north part of Hoste Island. Hoste Island is a big sprawling clover-shaped thing, so it’d be nice to know the actual coordinates. But I don’t.

However, there are also reports of Nothofagus antarctica, as well as Nothofagus betuloides (Magellan’s beech), growing on Hermite Island, all of which is south of Hoste Island. Maybe they try to grow there, but aren’t very successful? I dunno.

So, the southernmost trees are possibly in the region marked in orange on the map below, which includes most of Hoste Island. The green marker is Hermite Island.

extremetrees2

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