A Living Fossil

Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)

Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) trunk

I could not beleive it when I discovered this amazing tree growing in a corner of my local park some years ago. It stands tall and proud above all the other trees, and I was so excited about its discoverey I even emailed my local newspaper to tell them all about it. In hindsight it was a crazy thing to do, and I did not get a reply, needless to say. It grows in the grounds of an old house, which has become incorporated into the park, and where the owners of years gone by must have been avid collectors of exotic trees.

Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)

Also called the ‘Wellingtonia’ or ‘Giant Redwood’, it is a gigantic evergreen tree and is the planet’s largest tree by volume, and is the tallest tree now growing in Britain. This is a massive tree and can have a girth of up to 8m (26ft). It forms a huge tapering bole with a base flare, with red, deep-fluted bark. The leaves are like green twisted cord, and smell of aniseed when crushed. The small yellow male cones are sometimes abundant at the tips of shoots. The female cones are solitary, sometimes paired, and are ovoid up to 8cm long and 5cm in diameter. It can grow up to 80m (262ft) tall.

Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)

Planted as an ornamental in parks and large gardens and estates. A native tree of the Sierra Nevada in California and which was discovered in 1852, it was introduced to Britain where it thrives best in the west.

Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) cone

A true living fossil, as these trees can live for up to and over 3,000 years of age, and are one of the planet’s longest living organisms.

Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) foliage

Some Giant Sequoia facts:

General Sherman: The largest living known Giant Sequoia is in the Sequoia National Park in California, and it is called General Sherman. It is in fact the largest tree by volume, which is 1,486.9 cubic metres (52,477 cubic feet). It is 83.3m (273ft) tall (the tallest is an unnamed tree at 95m (311ft)), and 31.3m (102ft) around its girth at ground level. It is believed to be between 2,300 – 2,700 years old. It has an estimated weight of 6,167 tons. Now that is one big old tree, and the largest known living single stem tree on the planet!

The Waterfall Tree: In Alder Greek Grove, a Giant Sequoia grove located in Giant Sequoia National Monument in California, grows a Giant Sequoia called the Waterfall Tree which holds the world record for the largest base circumference of 47m (154ft) and a diameter of 17m (55ft) of any other Giant Sequoia.

Photographs of Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) taken July and December 2012, local park, Staffordshire. © Pete Hillman 2012. Camera used Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38.

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