12 tremendous trees that hold world records

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From tallest to oldest and fastest-growing to most dangerous, these superlative specimens are trees at their most extreme.

Given that human life is literally dependent on trees, all trees great and small are remarkable in our book. But there's another book that makes mention of a number of specific trees and tree species: The book of Guinness World Records. Started by the managing director of the Guinness Brewery in 1954, the first version of the now-famous brand was as a promotion book of facts and figures to help settle pub arguments. We may have the all-wise pocket oracle known as Google to help in that department now, but the Guinness records remain a fun way to qualify the extremes. The following superstar trees all hold the current world records in their category – and while they may be eventually outranked by unknown specimens or future trees, for now at least they hold their title according to all things Guinness.

1. Fastest growing tree: Empress Tree

The world´s fastest-growing tree is Paulownia tomentosa, pictured above, also known as the empress or foxglove tree (in honor of its explosion of purple foxglove-like flowers). It can grow 20 feet (6 meters) in its first year, and as much as 1 foot (30 centimeters) in three weeks. Native to central and west China, it is now naturalised all over the United States. Remarkably, these big guys also produce three to four times more oxygen during photosynthesis than any other known species of tree. Respect!