Nature’s Majesty: The Giant Sequoia

California is home to the largest tree on the planet – a giant sequoia named the General Sherman Tree. Learn about this massive tree species, its old age, and how it inspired the National Park Service logo.

Giant sequoias are the largest trees on Earth.

Giant sequoias are truly giants – they can grow to heights of about 300 feet and their trunks can reach diameters of about 30 feet. While some tree species can match the giant sequoia by either height or diameter, no other species can beat both. Because of this, giant sequoias grow to be the world’s largest trees.

Giant sequoias stop growing in height over time; however, they are always growing around the trunk. The largest tree on the planet, General Sherman, is a giant sequoia at Sequoia National Park. Each year, it grows enough wood around its trunk to be equivalent to a large tree of a different species.

Giant sequoias live to be thousands of years old.

Giant sequoias live for thousands of years. The oldest giant sequoia is estimated to be 3,210 years old.

To age a giant sequoia, scientists count the tree rings from an intact trunk of a fallen tree. Using the information from the trunk, scientists can then estimate the ages of standing trees that are a similar size and that grew in a similar environment.

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Giant sequoia in King’s Canyon National Park

Giant sequoias are only found in California.

Giant sequoias have a very restricted range, meaning that they only grow in a small area on Earth. Giant sequoias are only found on the western side of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California, along a short stretch of about 250 miles. They grow at elevations of 4,000 to 8,000 feet.

Giant sequoia seeds have a one in a billion chance of becoming an adult tree.

Giant sequoia seeds are only about as big as a pinhead, enclosed in a small, egg-shaped cone. Trees will not produce large amounts of seeds until they are several hundred years old. Reproducing giant sequoia trees will deposit millions of seeds each year; however, because of harsh growing conditions, there is a one in a billion chance that the seedling will grow into a mature tree.

Giant sequoias, like all other species, are subject to the effects of climate change.

It is estimated that 92% of the larger giant sequoia trees are protected by public agencies, namely the National Parks and National Forests. Yet despite this federal protection, parks can no longer guarantee the safety of the trees when faced with the consequences of climate change.

Giant sequoias only live on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California. This restricted range puts them in danger as climate change threatens our planet. Climate change may cause the area to be too hot or too dry for the trees, putting the species at risk.

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Giant Sequoias looking down at the parking lot in King’s Canyon National Park

Cool facts about giant sequoias:

  • It is estimated that there are only about 20,000 giant sequoias alive that have diameters greater than 10 feet.
  • The roots of mature giant sequoias stretch out over 100 feet in every direction.
  • Giant sequoia bark is thick and contains little sap to help protect it from fires.
  • Giant sequoias are on the U.S. National Park emblem. This is because 3 of the 4 first National Parks created protected giant sequoias.

Resources to learn more:

Author: Taylor Crisologo

Taylor studied biology at Cornell University, where she worked with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology on projects ranging from breeding herring gulls off the coast of Maine to dancing lyrebirds in Australia’s Blue Mountains. When she’s not researching great places to experience Bay Area nature, you can find her birding or reading a book at home with her husband and their two indoor cats (Max and Penelope).

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