They may not be the tallest trees, or the oldest, but the giant sequoias in California’s Sequoia National Park are the largest known trees on earth by volume. They are, in many respects, the opposite of bonsai, but they can certainly inform our understanding of age, character, beauty – and scale – in nature. I spent a few days last week hiking around the sequoias with my father and was amazed by how massive these trees are. Here’s the view from the parking lot at our first stop – Grant Grove.
Big trees – or tiny cars
Giant sequoias have been growing in the Sierra Nevada for a long time. The oldest living specimens are up to 3,200 years old. The tallest reaches 311′. But what’s so hard to convey in photos, is how simply massive they are.
The Grant Grove contains the General Grant Tree, the world’s third biggest tree by volume and the largest sequoia by diameter at 40′. It’s hard to appreciate it as it stands in fairly close proximity to other, much smaller, trees. President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the Grant Tree to be America’s Christmas tree in 1926.
General Grant Tree
Grant Tree apex
Lower portion of the Grant Tree
Grant Tree trunk
The park contains a number of signs with facts to help us comprehend the trees’ massiveness. For example, a sign near the General Grant Tree informs visitors that, “If the General Grant Tree’s trunk could be filled with sports equipment, it could hold 159,000 basketballs, or more than 37 million ping-pong balls,” and that, “If the trunk of the General Grant Tree was a gas tank on a car that got 25 miles per gallon, you could drive around the earth 350 times without refueling.”
I’m better processing the world in human terms. It’s much easier to tell how big a tree is when people walk by.
Big trees with people
The author in front of said “big trees”
Looking straight up is fun, but that too fails to convey size.
Checking out the first branches from 200′ below
My favorite example of putting the trees into perspective is the shot below of my father standing next to a sequoia in Lost Grove.
Father and giant in Lost Grove
Same tree from downhill side
The largest of the bunch is the General Sherman Tree. It’s 275′ tall and 52,500 cubic feet big. It’s also 2,200 years old and weighs in at 1,385 tons. “If the Sherman Tree’s trunk could be filled with water it would provide enough water for 9,844 baths. That’s one bath every day for 27 years.”
General Sherman tree, or, a lot of baths
My father and I visited a number of groves and never got tired of seeing the impossibly big trees.
Nameless sequoia among much smaller white firs
An imposing stand of sequoias at the Redwood Mountain Grove
Afternoon sun against a stand of sequoias
Janet wrote about the sequoias on a similar visit – see The biggest trees on earth for details.
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