A tree’s growth is based on its surroundings. It needs the sun and lots of room. But this explains what determines the height of a tree, not the how. How tall a tree will grow is defined by its genes. Environmental conditions can also determine a tree's height. If a tree doesn't get enough water, nutrients, or light - the tree will not grow as tall as it could.
In the northeast, the tallest tree is the white pine, growing over 150 feet. But the tallest trees on earth are coast redwoods. Sequoias are more massive, but still about a tree shorter than the most towering redwoods. The tallest known individual tree on the planet is a redwood, also called Hyperion.
It’s all about water: not water supply, but the dynamics of moving water. We understand trees need water and that it comes from the ground. Transporting water from the roots through the trunk and up to the leaves is the challenge. Unlike animals, a tree’s inner system has no heart — no pump of any sort.
Water is not moved up the tree. It is drawn from above. Water molecules are likely to attach to each other and other elements. When moisture vaporizes from a leaf’s surface, it pulls along the water that goes all the way down to the roots. The water is drawn from the soil to replace what was lost in the watering process. As a tree gets taller, it becomes hard to get water to its top leaves.
All trees go through this, but redwoods handle it better than other trees. And according to some tree care experts, their superiority may come from the fog in which they live. This may be one of the reasons they can grow so tall. Redwoods are capable of absorbing water from fog right into their leaves. Unlike other trees, redwoods make their water source.
Therefore, instead of going against the dynamic of drawing water from the soil through the tree’s complicated and lengthy vasculature, they create a much more convenient source. With entry to water in the fog nearby the leaves, the plumbing issue turns out to be a plumbing benefit.
If you're interested in finding out how tall your trees can get, or which trees you should plant based on where you want them to grow, contact a York arborist for a consultation.