The Ancient Tree Giant That Defies Nature
Redwoods are imposing trees, and they can live up to thousands of years old. The oldest of them all are residents of one small strip of land in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and they are stretching up to the sky and growing stronger each year. One sequoia tree there, in particular, has been making headlines with its rise to power, and its story is almost too large for words!
THE PLACE WHERE NATURE SHOWS OFF
The Sequoia National Park of Southern Nevada is a place as unique as it can be. Its dramatic landscape is filled with beauty and diversity and features massive mountains, deep canyons, vast caverns, as well as some incredible natural wonders of great importance.
THE SEQUOIA HEAVEN
The Sequoia National Park was established in 1890, aiming to protect the incredible natural resources of the region. The park stretches over 631 square miles and is filled with mountainous and densely forested land. It is one of the best places to come and appreciate nature at its finest. And the park is also home to one high peak.
Mount Whitney stretches to 14,505 feet into the sky, and it is the highest point in the US. The landscape of the Sequoia National Park can not be understated, as the ridges rise and fall for thousands of feet. It makes for some stunning views, and the sequoia forests here preserve a landscape of historical significance.
THE LAND OF OLD
The Sequoia National Park is unique in that it still preserves the look of the land as it was centuries ago. It is reminiscent of the times before the settlers arrived on the continent, and when Sierra Nevada was wild and undiscovered. But the region was not entirely uninhabited.
The Sequoia National Park sits on a piece of land that previously belonged to the Monache tribe. These Native Americans lived mostly by the rivers in the region, but there is evidence that they also populated the forested areas where the giant trees can be found. It looked like the Monache lived in perfect harmony with the nature around them.
LIFE IN SEQUOIA LAND
The Monache relied on their surroundings for sustenance. However, they never depleted the nature around them, but rather, only took what was necessary for survival. This way, the forests, valleys, and rivers had time to replenish their reserves. In the Sequoia National Park, rock mortars used for acorn processing can still be seen, detailing the techniques the Monache used. But it wasn’t long before the tribe was forced out.
THE SETTLERS ARRIVE
As the settlers began arriving in the region, they brought with them cattle and extensive logging practices. This came as a big shock to the native tribe, but unfortunately, they could do nothing to stop the disrespect the settlers were showing the ancient lands around them. And one specific trade posed a serious danger to the sequoia forest.
THE SEQUOIA TRADE
The settlers that came to the region tried to exploit it as fast as they could. Seeing there were plenty of majestic trees in the forests, they began a sequoia timber trade. The prospect of money blinded everyone, and they chopped down hundreds of trees as a result. It didn’t look like the sequoia forest was going to survive the new settlers.
CONSERVATION EFFORTS BEGIN
Even back in the 1880s, some people realized the importance of these imposing trees, and they wanted to protect them at all costs. Their task was not easy, however, and their conservation efforts were not welcomed.
However, in 1890, the sequoias became a part of the Sequoia National Park, and therefore, all logging had to cease. It looked like the trees would finally be protected. And it was not just them that needed the extra care.
THE BIODIVERSITY OF THE REGION
The Sequoia National Park is extraordinarily diverse. It encompasses five climates, depending on the elevation of the area. This offers amazing possibilities for life. The variety of vegetation in the park is impressive, not to mention the many animals that inhabit the land. Black bears, owls, beavers, frogs, woodpeckers, and many more live in the beautiful nature there. And nature truly went all out when designing the park.
THE GEOLOGY OF SIERRA NEVADA
The geology of the region makes it one of the most interesting places in the whole country. The canyons and mountains there are granite-based and are a result of extreme forces that brought forth by plate movements. The many caves of the region provide a glimpse into the underbelly of the Earth millions of years ago. But just how old is everything there?
THE AGE-OLD QUESTION
It is believed that the Sierra Nevada region as a whole is no more than 10 million years old. In Earth’s terms, this may not be much, but the formations that appeared even in this short period of time are simply stunning. And there is one thing that can be found in the area that is highly unexpected.
During the 10 million years of the region’s existence, the Earth froze a few times over. Because of this, the National Sequoia Park was covered with a layer of ice. Today, we can see the remnants of this, as small glaciers can still be observed in many of the Sierra Nevada parks. But the ice was not welcomed by the giant sequoias.
THE CONDITIONS FOR SEQUOIA GROWTH
Giant sequoias are only native to the Sierra Nevada, and they have very specific requirements for growth. The land they sit on has to be moist but not icy, so if the region was to remain frozen, the giant trees would not be able to ever grow here. Fortunately, Sierra Nevada had other plans for its land.
THE TREE GROVES
In the whole of the Sierra Nevada region, around 73 groves of sequoias grow. They spread through the region’s many parks, and together, they cover a vast area. There is something which people tend to get wrong about these trees, however. But a trip to the parks can clarify the confusion.
REDWOODS OR SEQUOIAS?
Many people think that redwoods and sequoias are the same trees. But the reality is different. They are actually different species, and although they are a member of the same family, they are not entirely the same. The Sequoia National Park teaches its visitors about the vast differences between the trees. And you won’t believe how many sequoias there are in Sequoia Park.
THE HOME OF GIANTS
The Sequoia National Park is home to giants that have been living there for millennia and stretching into the thin air year by year. The park boasts more than 8,000 giant trees and their beauty draws in visitors year after year. Not to mention that the hiking trails there can lead you to some jaw-dropping sights.
THE BIG THREE
The park is the humble abode of three of the largest sequoias on the whole planet. The General Sherman Tree is the world’s largest living tree, soaring up 275 feet. It is humbly followed by the General Grant Tree, which pales at a mere 267 feet in comparison. The President Tree comes in third at 203 feet, but it is even more valuable than the others for a few specific reasons.
The President Tree might not be the tallest nor widest of them all, but this monumental redwood has something else going for it. It is considered to be the oldest sequoia tree in the whole world, dating back 3,200 years! Even though giant sequoias usually live around 3,000 years, The President clearly has no intention of calling it a day.
THE TOUGH LIFE OF GIANT SEQUOIAS
Sequoias might be massive in size, but they definitely aren’t indestructible. In fact, they are pretty frail as far as trees go. They can only grow in a specific area, which happens to be the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and only at an elevation of 5,000 to 7,000 feet. Anything more or less and the trees won’t grow. The President is in a special and lucky spot, however.
THE PECULIAR LIFE OF TREES
Living on the land of giants, The President had to grow so as to compete for sunlight and water. The never-ending race of trees to outgrow each other is what gives our planet these looming colossuses. What’s more, trees don’t stop growing as they get older, and instead, they continue growing into glory. But there are things that threaten the trees.
THE THREATS FROM NATURE
Giant trees, or any trees for that matter, don’t have it all so easy. They have to face violent winds, lightning storms, wildfires, fungus, or pests, so if a tree makes it to considerably old age, it is because it was fit enough to withstand all the trials of nature. The President must have clearly been a strong specimen to make it to such an old age. And he had the body to show it.
THE SHEER MASS OF THE TREE
The President is as striking as it is impressive. It stands on four massive red limbs that form its base and extends out into the sky where its enormous crown grows. It is 27 feet in diameter at the base, making a hug around the tree trunk quite a challenge for people.
It is impossible to capture the whole tree in one photo, let alone comprehend its immense presence. And its crown has been perplexing scientists for years.
THE PRESIDENT SHOWS STRANGE BEHAVIOUR
Scientists were aware of the fact that a tree continues growing in height as it ages, but what they were faced with when monitoring The President was something different, and it confused them. It appeared that the redwood giant kept growing in volume as well, spreading its crown year after year, and bulking up its trunk and branches. This growth would mean something important.
THE BRANCH VOLUME MAKES A DIFFERENCE
The President might not be as tall as the other two giants in the park, but because of its constant growth in volume, the tree is now arguably the second largest sequoia. Its crown is fuller than the Sherman Tree, with almost two billion leaves to its name. And still, it keeps growing fast, making it a champion in some sense.
THE NEVER-ENDING GROWTH SPURT
The President simply doesn’t know how to slow down. The tree has been reaching up to the sky for millennia, trying to get the most advantageous position for sunlight and water, and it has been protecting itself with its constant bulking up. The President is now believed to be one of the fastest-growing trees on the planet. And when scientists took to measuring it, they were more than impressed.
THE HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION
The President has been measured to be 54,000 cubic feet, making it the second-largest tree in the world by weight. But The President keeps growing, and scientists simply can not predict the eventual size it will get to before it finally collapses. Only time can tell the future of this majestic tree. But along with it, something else will go too.
Trees are nature’s filters. They allow us to breathe the air that we breathe, and our world simply would not be livable without them. When it comes to giant trees, such as the sequoias, there's more to it. The amount of CO₂ they are able to inhale is unbelievable and extremely important to humankind. And some people will do just about anything to get closer to the imposing beauty.
THE EXPEDITION INTO THE SKY
It was never possible to photograph The President in all its beauty, as it was simply too large to fit into one frame. Until 2009, when a team of dedicated researchers and photographers took up the task. The team had a difficult task ahead of them, but they were ready to ascend the heights of The President for the benefit of all. And the results were mesmerizing.
THE FIRST FILL PHOTO OF THE PRESIDENT
The expedition team spent 32 days climbing up the giant tree using rigging equipment and photographing each and every part of the colossus. In the end, 126 separate images had to be taken to be combined into one big whole picture that would, for the first time, show The President in all its glory. It was a day to be remembered.
The giant sequoias of Sierra Nevada are quite the sight. Not only do they have an impressive presence that reminds us of the ultimate power and beauty of nature, but they also reveal to us the unending possibilities and the inextricable connection of all living things on this planet. Living for 3,200 years, keeping the ecosystem healthy, and our oxygen plentiful is not something many beings can pride themselves with.
Sources: National Park Service, Visit California, Visit Sequoia, Famous Redwoods, Treehugger, The Sun Gazette, The Vintage News, National Geographic, NPR, University Of Melbourne, History, Summit Post, What When How, Save American Forests, Game Warden, NPS, Save The Redwoods