I don’t need to tell you that trees are massive. Towering above all else, these behemoths can really pack some serious heft. In fact, by mass, trees are the largest organisms in the world. But just how much does a tree weigh? Most “average” sized full-grown trees weigh about one ton, with larger trees weighing 3-5 tons, and exceptional individuals exceeding that by wide margins. Of course, the weight of a tree greatly depends on its size, form, and even species, so it is difficult to give an exact answer. Luckily, we have a useful chart you can use to determine exactly how much a tree weighs, as well as explanations of what affects a tree’s weight. Let’s dive in.
How to Determine the Weight of a Tree
If you are looking for a way to determine the weight of an individual tree, look no further. Below is a volume table that you can use to help you estimate tree weight. It is based on the tree DBH (also known as Diameter) and the total tree height. If you want to know more about DBH and how to find it accurately, we have an article on the subject here.
Looking at the table, you can clearly see that the biggest determinants of how much a tree weighs are diameter and height. While this table can provide relatively accurate estimates, there are other factors that can greatly affect mass that can’t always be accounted for, including species and even the time of year!
Species Affects Weight
The above chart is based on hardwood trees. However, the numbers might vary for softwood trees and even hardwoods of different species. Generally speaking, softwoods are less dense than hardwoods (hence the name), so a softwood tree of comparable volume may have less mass. That said, this is not always the case. Balsa wood, which is an extremely light wood used for crafting and model aircraft, is a hardwood, whereas yew, which is an extremely dense wood that used to be a favorite for making longbows, is a softwood. There are no hard and fast rules, and any generality is subject to exception.
The Weight of a Tree Varies Depending on the Season
Of course, the weight of a tree is also greatly dependent on the season. For deciduous trees, the weight difference between leaf-on and leaf-off can be quite substantial. Each leaf itself is extremely light, but considering a tree might have tens of thousands of leaves, it adds up to a lot of weight! Naturally, then, deciduous trees will weigh less in the fall and winter.
Even for evergreens, which don’t drop their needles, the season can have a big impact on weight. In areas with a dry season, the moisture content of wood can drop lower when soil moisture is low, greatly reducing the overall weight of the tree. This can be problematic in the forest industry when stumpage contracts and mill rates are based on the weight of logs. However, it can be ideal when harvesting trees for firewood or lumber, as it greatly reduces the necessary drying time. It’s all about perspective, I suppose.
How Much a Tree Weighs Can Depend on Form
Another major factor affecting how much a tree weighs is the form (or shape) of a tree. A tree that has excessive taper may weigh less because the diameter rapidly decreases as you go up the tree, and the overall volume suffers. However, trees that are open-grown may weigh more than their height and diameter suggests because of a large, healthy crown full of thick branches. I have seen trees that easily held an entire ton or two of wood just in the crown!
How Much Do the Largest Trees Weigh?
While there may be a bit of disagreement over which tree holds the rightful title of “biggest on earth,” it is generally accepted that the largest trees are the largest organisms on earth. Because trees never really stop growing until they die, they can reach unthinkable, titanic mass. So how much do the largest trees in the world weigh? A lot!
General Sherman is the located in Sequoia National Park in California and is believed to be the largest single-stem tree on earth (by volume). The tree comes in at a whopping 4.2 million pounds, and towering at 272 feet high, it is no wonder why this tree weighs so heavily. It is a true behemoth!
General Sherman may be the largest single-stem tree on earth, but a tree doesn’t have to be restrained by a single stem. Several species, such as aspen, can grow from its roots and throw up multiple stems from a single organism. Such dynamics gave rise to Pando (Latin for “I spread”), a clonal colony of aspen in Fishlake National Forest in Utah covering 106 acres. Pando could be the very largest organism on earth, weighing in at an absolutely colossal 13 million pounds. To put that into perspective, this one tree could heat around five hundred northern households for a winter. Unfortunately, that would require the stems to be cut down, but don’t worry! The root system would just shoot up more stems from the roots and stumps, and regenerate. If this were to happen it would still be the same organism as before.
Bottom Line: Trees Are Heavy
Ok, You probably already knew that. Even so, its worth taking the time while walking through nature to pause and consider just how massive these lifeforms are. Aside from the sheer weight, I often marvel at how much energy trees hold in their mass. Just a few small pieces of wood–an infinitesimal part of the overall mass–can heat an entire home on a cold winter night. That’s impressive, and it can make you appreciate just how energetic forest fires can be when there is excess fuel in the forest. Trees are heavy, yes, but they are heavy with one of the most miraculous substances on the planet: Wood. It gives us both the means to build houses and heat them. Trees are pretty neat, if you ask me. I may be biased, though.