California's enormous giant sequoia is the world's most massive tree.
October 4, 2013: Rim Fire News and Resources
The Rim Fire is now reported to be contained. The nearby groves of ancient giant sequoias were not harmed by the third-largest fire in recorded California history. This L.A. Times article provides an account of the measures taken to protect the iconic sequoias.
Since it began on August 17, the blaze burned over 400 square miles, an area larger than the city of San Diego (Source: InciWeb).
We at Save the Redwoods League express our sincerest wishes for the well-being of the communities affected by the fire.
Learn more about wildfire and the forest:
League Research Articles
- Promoting Giant Sequoia Regeneration: Patterns of Giant Sequoia Regeneration in Groves Exposed to Wildfire and Retention Harvest in the Southern Sierra Nevada
- Disturbances Benefit Giant Sequoias: Long-term Dynamics Following Fuel Reduction Treatment in a Giant Sequoia-Mixed Conifer Forest
League Blog Posts
- Fire Season, by Richard Campbell, on why bigger and more destructive fires have been occurring recently
- Like a Phoenix, by Dr. Emily Burns, on some ecological impacts of forest fires
- Native American Use of Fire, by Deborah Zierten, on how and why Native Americans practiced burning
- One Way to Manage and Protect a Forest: Burn It, by Jessica Neff, on fire as a forest stewardship tool
The Most Massive Trees
Being dwarfed by Earth's most massive tree, the giant sequoia, fills you with wonder. It's hard to believe that a living thing can be so enormous and old. Also known as Sierra redwoods, these trees of California's rugged Sierra Nevada mountains can grow about as high as a 25-story building (more than 250 feet tall). Their trunks can grow as wide as 30 feet or 10 paces by an average adult person.
The trunk of Sequoia National Park's General Sherman Tree is about 52,500 cubic feet, which is roughly equivalent to 21,800 150-pound humans! Giant sequoias can live to be 3,000 years old; the oldest recorded specimen exceeded 3,500 years. Trees this old started growing in the Iron Age, when humans learned how to use iron in tools.
There was a time when redwoods grew throughout the northern hemisphere of the planet. Today, Earth's last giant sequoias live on land totaling the size of four Manhattan islands (48,000 acres) distributed in 77 scattered groves along the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
We don't yet fully understand why most have gone and how some have stood the test of time.
Giant sequoias grow so large because they live a very long time and grow quickly. To thrive, giant sequoias require thousands of gallons of water each day (the average American uses 80–100 gallons daily). They get the water they need from the Sierra snowpack that accumulates over the winter months and soaks into the ground when it melts. Because they need well-drained soil, compacting the soil by walking around their shallow roots can damage giant sequoias.
Fire is an important element of the giant sequoia forest. Naturally occurring fires create openings in the forest, allowing young giant sequoias to establish themselves. Fire suppression policies in recent years have increased the growth of dense, brushy undergrowth and reduced the likelihood of giant sequoia regeneration.
John Muir, renowned naturalist and extensive explorer of the Sierra Nevada, was in awe of these giants. "There is something wonderfully attractive in this king tree, even when beheld from afar, that draws us to it with indescribable enthusiasm; its superior height and massive smoothly rounded outlines proclaiming its character in any company; and when one of the oldest attains full stature on some commanding ridge it seems the very god of the woods."
Today, it takes a community of caretakers—scientists, land managers, volunteers and donors—to protect redwood forests. With your help, we know that these 3,000-year-old giants will inspire the imagination of countless generations to come. Donate today
Wildlife in Redwood Forests
Redwood forests also support a large number of animal species, including more than 200 different vertebrates. Frogs, salmon, toads, salamanders, snakes, lizards, marbled murrelets, sparrows, blackbirds, wood warblers, bats, squirrels, chipmunks, mice, weasels, bear, deer and elk all can be found among redwoods.
Explore more redwood resources on our Redwoods Learning Center.