Giants of Sustainability – Sequoias

Most of you have Bucket Lists, I assume?

On mine was a visit and numerous hikes in Yosemite National Park.

And, to see what’s called the largest (most massive) living tree on earth. By trunk volume–no branches.

© Richard G. Williams

That’d be the “General Sherman” tree in Sequoia National Park, roughly 2-1/2 hours’ drive southeast of Yosemite.

The General Sherman is 36′ in breadth at the base; 102 ft. in diameter. This image maybe shares the sense of it? Way beyond elephantine.

2,000 years old is the minimum age estimate for The General Sherman. Probably closer to 2,700 years old.

Definitely B. C., into what’s called the Archaic Period in No. America. The Chumash People occupied this area when The General Sherman was a youngster in what’s called the Millingstone Horizon period in CA.

At 275′ tall, it isn’t the tallest sequoia. The tallest tree in the world at 376′ is the Coast Redwood, a sequoia specie.

The oldest sequoia known was 3,266 years old when it was cut down. (Imagine cutting down a tree equivalent to a 33-story building?)

While estimating the age of an existing giant sequoia isn’t anything too sure, once it’s down, ring counting proves the age.

These giant sequoias need about 1k gal. of water daily according to the NPS park ranger who described The General Sherman when we and another 60 people stood in front of it. Their root systems are shallow; only 12-14′ deep. A mature sequoia’s root system can occupy about an acre of land. Its egg-shaped cones are surprising small, and its branches start about half way up the tree.

One of the sequoias we saw had fire marks on its bark about 75′ up. So, a very, very long time ago it survived a fire threat as a young tree.

The bark of a Giant Sequoia helps protect it against fire. In a mature tree it measures some 3′ in thickness. It has a fibrous feeling to the touch; kind of like the short hair on an American boxer dog, for example. Some of it comes off in your hand if rubbing the bark. (So I stopped, wishing no harm to the tree.)

But the softness of this bark can serve as a perfectly nice cushion which this youngish couple took advantage of, no doubt at the end of a beautiful day of hiking and exploring.

The ranger also said there’s a large tannin content to the tree’s wood that wards off damaging insects or fungal disease.

Giant sequoias are a sight to behold! Get out! Go see ’em. Invigorating!

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