Learn More About Giant Sequoias

  • The most massive living thing on our planet, the Giant Sequoia has the largest number of cells interconnected in a single, discrete whole, producing each year new cells by the millions. No other form of life even approaches the massive bulk of the largest of these giants.
  • The Giant Sequoia named The General Sherman Tree reigns supreme as the largest of the living things on earth. This tree is so large that it's seemingly small growth rate of only one millimeter per year yields a volume of new wood equal to that of all the wood found in a 50 foot tree!
  • Giant Sequoias are also one of the most enduring living things on the planet with many living over 2,000 years and some living past 3,000 years, or 40 human lifetimes.
  • The world’s largest trees are also the world’s fastest growing trees. To fully comprehend how tall it stands, it is equivalent to a 30 story building in height and a 3 story building in width (trunk only).
  • Giant Sequoias can survive in less than 3 feet (1 meter) of soil by spreading their roots far from the tree, up to 300 feet (100 meters). That such mammoth trees have such shallow root depth is astonishing.
  • How do such trees remain upright without a deep anchoring system? Giant Sequoias are extremely well-balanced and can notoriously maintain their equilibrium regardless of difficult conditions. The complex intertwining of roots helps support these huge trees.
  • Sequoias help each other. Giant Sequoias do not compete with each other for resources, rather their huge root systems fuse together and they share resources.
  • Giant Sequoias triumph over the natural challenges that often kill other forest trees. For example, Giant Sequoias are drought resistant, disease resistant, insect resistant and fire resistant.
  • Giant Sequoias are sun worshipers, yet annually each tree must absorb vast amounts of water. When a Giant Sequoia falls in the forest, witnesses say that a river of ice water pours out.
  • The cinnamon-colored bark of a Giant Sequoia contains one of its greatest secrets to success. The cinnamon color comes from “tannic acid” which is found in the bark and the wood of a Sequoia, and this is why Sequoias are often called“Redwoods”. Although many trees contain some tannin, the high content in Sequoias is largely responsible for the tree’s resistance to disease, insect infestation and fire.
  • Sequoias are thick-skinned. The bark of the Giant Sequoia is generally thicker than that of any other species of the tree on earth, and this heavy bark is a major factor contributing to the tree’s longevity. Sections of the bark will exceed two feet in thickness.
  • Giant Sequoias, like most other trees, grow as long as they live. Although upward growth usually is completed within the first 800 years of life, Sequoias continue to grow thicker throughout their long lives.
  • Sequoias are extremely fruitful. The average mature Giant Sequoia produces approximately 2,000 cones each year. Since there is an average of 200 seeds per cone, 400,000 seeds could be released from each tree each year. With an average of three mature trees per acre, over a million seeds are produced per acre per year in most Sequoia groves.
  • Giant Sequoias can provide food for themselves (and others). The constant rain of bark, twigs, cones, and their subsequent decomposition by soil organisms maintains a dynamic balance by constantly returning nutrients to the soil.
  • Believe it or not, Giant Sequoias are dependent on fire for survival. Studies revealed that fire could be used as a management tool, at least in small areas, and that it would not only reduce fire hazard, but would stimulate the regeneration of Giant Sequoias in many ways. Scientists confirmed that Giant Sequoia reproduction effectively dropped to zero in groves where fires were not allowed to burn.
  • Not only is the Giant Sequoia adapted to live with fire, it gains benefit from the association. For example, rapid growth occurs after a fire. Rising heat from a fire dries out the hanging Sequoia cones which open up, allowing seeds to rain by the millions. These seeds land on cleared soil fertilized by ash. On soil left bare by fire, they can take root. Giant Sequoia seed germination naturally occurs best in fire-burned, mineral-rich soils.
  • Sequoia seedlings are much more likely to survive where fire burned hottest. Clusters of Giant Sequoias may be found where fire once burned very hot, called a Hot Spot. Because the shade canopy is destroyed, those remaining plants that can tolerate high light intensities will be favored. The Giant Sequoia is such a plant.
  • Giant Sequoias are Fire-Resistant, but not Fireproof. The thicker bark will not hold a flame, but the bark can be seared through when accumulations of fuel beneath the tree burn for a long time. The deep and long fire scars that can be seen on many Giant Sequoia trunks are probably due to the heat of the burning, less fire-resistant adjacent trees.
  • Sequoias Heal. Giant Sequoias have an amazing ability to heal when injured. Often despite severe fire damage (some burned completely hollow) Giant Sequoias can survive for centuries. Continually new wood grows from either side of a fire scar, covering a little more each year until the injury is healed over like new skin on a body. Cross-sections of logged Sequoias disclose many cases where fire scars have completely healed after the damage was incurred.
  • Sequoias naturally form partnerships. Like most living organisms, the Giant Sequoia does not live alone; it is but one member of a complex association of plants and animals whose continued existence depends on interdependence of physical and living components. For example, the Giant Sequoia lacks the ability to drop its own cones; a mature Sequoia tree carries thousands of cones. These cones hang on a tree with its seeds sealed up for up to 20 years until something opens them. Two very small forest residents act as seed dispersing agents for the Giant Sequoia: the tiny, Long-horned Wood-boring Beetle and the Chickaree or Douglas Squirrel.
  • Sequoias are interdependent and their well-being depends on reciprocal arrangement of services. Both the beetle and the Chickaree for example receive nourishment from the Giant Sequoia cones, and in exchange they assist the seeds to be released, greatly increasing the chances of Giant Sequoia reproduction. Interestingly, the Chickarees seem to prefer cones between two and five years old, while the beetle apparently prefers cones four years or older.
  • Giant Sequoias can live a long time, but they are not immortal. Soft soils, heavy snows and root damage can unbalance a tree and cause it to eventually fall.
  • Giant Sequoias provide for future generations. After the death of a Giant Sequoia the tannin acts as a natural preservative which slows the decay process tremendously resulting in a slow-release of nutrients for literally thousands of years. In one case, scientists found a Giant Sequoia lying buried under sediment, undecayed for almost 10,000 years!
  • You can find Giant Sequoias growing all over the world, yet today they are only native and reproducing in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California where dozens of natural Sequoia groves proudly stand. With the Giant Sequoia’s discovery, it was to be expected that people would want to grow these trees. Today there is scarcely a hilltop in Great Britain from which a Sequoia cannot be seen. It is estimated that in Europe there are perhaps as many as 10,000 Giant Sequoias. Giant Sequoias are also known to be growing presently in Turkey, Lebanon, Israel, Cyprus, Egypt, Kenya, Japan, South America, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. In the Southern Hemisphere, they seem to be indifferent to the reversal of the seasons and grow vigorously, particularly in New Zealand.