The gift of a tree
October 20, 2018 7:06 AM   Subscribe

As discussed in MetaTalk, what would it actually take to ship a 200-foot Douglas fir from the Pacific Northwest to the UK? By what means would it ship, what would the time frame be, and how much would it cost? Is it possible? Please provide a quote for this ASAP.

I don't have an exact address on either end, since this was a joke, but now I actually want to know how it would be done, or if it even could be done.
posted by limeonaire to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is it possible?

The UK publishes a list of allowed agricultural goods, and it seems like Douglas Fir (Pesudotsuga menziesii) from outside the European continent is "prohibited" without a scientific license or governmental exception granted. It's a carrier for Sudden Oak Death disease (Phytophthora ramorum).
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:28 AM on October 20, 2018 [13 favorites]


Ah interesting! I guess it is indeed not really possible. If it were a different type of 200-foot tree, though, I'm still curious: How would one go about doing this?
posted by limeonaire at 7:44 AM on October 20, 2018


Ignoring the legalities of importation and the realities of transplanting, one of your complications is going to be simply the transportation to and from the port. 200 feet is way longer than a standard semi trailer; you would probably need a setup comparable to what they use to haul wind turbine blades, with the added issue that live trees with root balls are much heavier than windmill parts.

But in reality, there's likely no practical way to dig out and handle a 200' tree without damage. Among the competing claims for largest trees ever transplanted are a 29m (95') tree with a wide crown and this description of what it took to move a 100' sequoia within Boise. The descriptions of the process for moving the sequoia are likely similar to what you would need to do, plus the added height and weight.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:52 AM on October 20, 2018 [12 favorites]


There are a few "moving big tree" stories that people have heard of and a few companies that move big trees though maybe not as big as you're thinking. Some pointers.

- Every year Halifax sends a Christmas tree to Boston to thank them
- This billionaire who has been moving massive trees all over Georgia and the photos of the particularly iconic tulip tree on a barge
posted by jessamyn at 7:54 AM on October 20, 2018 [7 favorites]


Apparently the root spread of a tree tends to be equal to, or even larger than, the canopy? With a conical tree like a fir this might mean a very deep root? Just an added complication if you want the tree to live.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:45 AM on October 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


If we modify the question to eliminate the rootball, and just send a 200-foot cut Christmas tree, this becomes more doable, but not cheap.

That tree Halifax sends to Boston costs just $6000 for cutting and shipping, according to CBC. But it's just a 45-foot tree so it fits on a truck that only needs to drive around 600 miles.

For a 200-foot tree from the Pacific Northwest to the UK, there are three portions to the trip: (1) You'd need to be able to put it on 3 connected 89-foot railcars at or near the cutting location, ship it to a dock by rail via a route that is not too bendy, and put it on a ship. Rail shipping is about 1/5 the cost of truck shipping, so extrapolating from one 45-tree costing $6,000 for 600 miles by truck, we'd get about $2,500 to ship the 200-foot tree 300 miles by rail. But let's double that, because of the special requirements and handling that would be necessary, so $5,000.
(2) With the branches tied together Christmas-tree style, it could fit between containers on a container ship. Given that it takes up the room of five 40-foot containers, the ocean portion would cost whatever it costs to send five containers from the Pacific Northwest to the UK. It appears this is about $2,400 per container from LA to the UK, so let's make it $15,000 for the 5-container tree to cover the extra distance and the special handling needed.
(3) Then you have another overland train ride to the final destination in the UK. Let's assume the same $5,000 for that land portion.
So, it would appear that it could be done for a total of $25,000. However, given all the special requirements and unique nature of the job, if you put it out to bid I doubt if you'd be quoted anything less than $75,000 to $100,000.
posted by beagle at 9:34 AM on October 20, 2018 [13 favorites]


This is only faintly useful, but...

Norway gives the UK a Christmas tree each year as a gift to put up in Trafalgar Square. There are some details here on shipping, but mostly on the shipping lines that transport it. And it's only 20+ metres (60+foot).
posted by penguin pie at 9:59 AM on October 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


(2) With the branches tied together Christmas-tree style, it could fit between containers on a container ship. Given that it takes up the room of five 40-foot containers, the ocean portion would cost whatever it costs to send five containers from the Pacific Northwest to the UK. It appears this is about $2,400 per container from LA to the UK, so let's make it $15,000 for the 5-container tree to cover the extra distance and the special handling needed.

This would need to go as deck cargo which is more expensive than the container-equivalent space.
posted by atrazine at 10:45 AM on October 20, 2018 [3 favorites]


5-container tree

Sorry if I didn't see this detail, but is this a live or a cut tree? Because you're gonna have a massive root ball to include if it's live.
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:51 AM on October 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


Doug fir will have a much smaller root ball than a deciduous tree. But the cost of the tree itself toils not be insignificant. Probably $400-500 per cubic meter, or maybe more but big timber like that ain't cheap.
posted by fshgrl at 11:19 AM on October 20, 2018 [1 favorite]


As you’re into the land of the speculative, one option you might want to consider is a blimp. A blimp could pluck the tree up on site, ride the trades over to the U.K.

One can only pretend to dream up a price, so I’ll say it will cost around 100,000 dollars. Or pounds. Maybe a little more, too.
posted by From Bklyn at 4:01 PM on October 20, 2018 [4 favorites]


It’s actually pretty easy: cut it up.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:38 PM on October 20, 2018 [2 favorites]


Root ball or no root ball are both OK, but it can't be cut up.

Great answers so far, everyone! Thank you!
posted by limeonaire at 8:02 PM on October 20, 2018


Well, if the purpose is just to set it up temporarily as a Christmas tree a la Rockefeller Center, you could cut it up in 5 pieces, stick them into five shipping containers, and reassemble them a la artificial Christmas tree, with some fabricated steel sleeves. Now you're down the cost of shipping five standard containers West Coast to UK, which as noted above is a tad above $2,400 each. Add some trucking at each end, plus the custom sleeves, and you could probably do it that way for under $20K.

BTW the Rockefeller Center tree is typically 75-90 feet but the record is 100 feet.
posted by beagle at 10:28 AM on October 21, 2018 [1 favorite]


It's a carrier for Sudden Oak Death disease (Phytophthora ramorum).

It's a little known fact that all Canadian plant diseases are named by combining an ice hockey term with the name of the plant affected.
posted by biffa at 3:17 PM on October 21, 2018 [5 favorites]


Well, easiest way is to ship it as a seed, which you can do by mail, but it will take quite a while to get it set up on site.

As for the "blimp" suggestion which was spitballed at $100,000, here's my take. It takes around 100 cubic feet of helium to lift a pound, and that costs around $10. A back-of the envelope estimate of the weight of a 200 foot pine tree is around 20,000 pounds (estimated as twice the weight of a cone of solid pine 200 feet tall and 3 feet across at the base). This is around 2,000,000 cubic feet of helium for around $200,000. The current Goodyear blimps are around 200,000 cubic feet, so you need to engineer something that is at least ten times, and probably more like twenty times the volume to allow for the weight of structure, engines, and sandwiches for the crew.

My guess is $500,000,000 (turns out the helium wasn't much of the cost). But you end up with a really big-ass blimp when you're done, which is cool and would be especially great in October, because who needs a costume when you can go to the party in a giant blimp?
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 5:55 PM on October 22, 2018 [3 favorites]


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