There are some large-sized trees among the vast varieties of trees, even in our country, but there is no tree worldwide larger in "bulk" than the Giant Sequoia.
Really a fabulous tree, a hold-out from the Crateaceous or Pleistocene prehistoric time, where once there were vast forests and some 40 species of these trees. Now, the Giant Sequoia has a natural range of a few scattered pockets along a 260 mile band on the western Sierra Nevada slopes of California. The Giant Sequoia (Sequoia giganteum), and its close relative the coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) are the two remaining "relic" species. These two belong to the Taxodium Family (Taxodiaceae), of which North America has but two genera, the Sequoia, and the Bald Cypress.
As California was in the Gold Rush era in the mid-1800's, the Sequoia was an important timber tree for the mushrooming population. Because the some of the trees were so large, the loggers left them standing. Sometime take a look at the logging during the early California period. Its really incredible to see how trees were harvested and processed for the wood-hungry populous. The wood is light and brittle, but is very resistant to decay, just like the coast redwood. There is some harvest activity currently, but only from replanted stands, all of the big trees are highly protected.
The remaining natural stands of Sequoia are protected in Sequoia and Kings National Parks, where you see some huge trees. Many of the large trees contains over 500,000 board feet of timber! Considering the average house has about 5,000 board feet, there's a lot of beef in those burgers. The General Sherman tree has the greatest circumference of any of the trees - over 101 feet! That tree stands over 270 feet tall, and over 3,000 years old! The tallest trees in the southern stands of the natural range (inside the parks), are over 20 feet in diameter and more than 275 feet tall, and average between 2,000 and 3,000 years of age. A few have been reported being over 4,000 years old! At this size, age is really a difficult task to get correct, but they are old!
Giant Sequoias like the deep well drained soils of the western mountain slopes in the 4,000 to 7,000 foot range, where rain and snow are plentiful except for the mid-summer drought. Snow depth can top 20 feet a year, and temperatures vary from -10 to 95 degrees. This put them in Plant Zone 6, not too cold tolerant for the northern half of the country, but suitable for the entire southern half.
Over the last hundred years of forest fire prevention, competing trees, like the White Fir have seeded in and grown in and among the Sequoias creating a potentially deadly fire hazard. In the past, periodic natural fires caused by summer lightning storms would clean out the forest floor, precluding large catastrophic blazes. On the older trees, the thick reddish fibrous bark is very fire resistant, but younger trees are susceptible.
Even though these are a relic species with a limited natural distribution, Giant Sequoias are very popular and planted throughout California and western Oregon, as well as other places. Although in the course of several hundred years, they will get large, realistically, in our lifetime, they will get 50 to 100 feet in size, and 3 to 4 feet in diameter. They hold a very conical shape, with branches reaching to the ground for many years. The dark green needle- like scales are contrasted against that unmistakable reddish fibrous bark of the redwood. they are typically planted as individuals or in some groups, but for the first twenty years of so, they can make an effective windbreak or privacy barrier. They will tolerate half shade, but prefer the full sun and well drained soils. Once established, the growth rate is a slow to medium grower.
And because the Giants are so popular, there have been several hybrids produced, like the Weeping or Blue Giant Sequoia. Very strange to see, but also fascinating.
The Giant Sequoia is an impressive tree, in shear size, but also as a very attractive plant. These are very popular and increasingly hybridized, so its survival is very sound!
Giant Sequoia - Hardy, grows up to 100 feet, and good for Zones 6 to 9. They prefer full sun, have a very conical shape, red fiberous bark, and good for windbreaks, screens, or as specimens. The Giant Sequoia is medium in cold tolerance and likes moisture, but well-drained soils. They can tolerate temperatures below-zero degrees for short periods, and periods of summer drought. They are held in cold storage, so they ship well, but they should be sent before June..
The biggest of the Big trees, the Giant Sequoia will become a nice sized tree, but not too big in your lifetime. It may get up to 100 feet tall and three or four feet in diameter, but not realistically bigger than that. It can be used as windbreaks and privacy screens, or as stand alone specimens. Makes incredible Bonsai! The drawback is that over time, it will get very large...
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