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Giant Sequoias: Treasures of the Nation
Text Courtesy of the US Forest Service


A Sense of Place

The ancestors of the giant sequoia once stretched across North America. Today, giant sequoias only grow naturally in 75 isolated groves within a narrow band 15 miles wide and 260 miles long, on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada of California.

In the northern two-thirds of this range, from the American River in Placer County south to the Kings River, there are only eight widely separated groves. The remaining groves are found south of the Kings River, closely spaced in a belt about 60 miles long. Grove elevations generally range from between 4,500 feet and 6,600 feet in the north, and between 5,500 feet and 7,000 feet in the south.

Giants of the Earth

Tough and resilient, sequoias endure hardships that can kill other trees. Their thick, spongy bark, one-to-two feet thick, protects them from insects and fires. Many trees show scars of their long lives, with bark peppered with charred areas and pocked by 10- to 20-foot vertical scars at their bases. Trees struck and hollowed by lightning, but still alive, are common in many groves.

Throughout history, people have been fascinated by the big trees. Paiute and Shoshone Indians drank sequoia sap to tap the trees' majestic power. Sequoias were named in honor of Cherokee Indian Chief Sequoia, who invented a Native American alphabet.

Sequoias are among the largest living beings on earth. While average mature sequoias are about 250 feet tall, and 15 feet in diameter, the tallest trees exceed 300 feet in height, and some specimens reach a diameter of 40 feet at the base.

For all their huge size, the trees have humble beginnings. The egg shaped cones, which take two years to mature, are rarely more than three inches long, and they nurture incredibly tiny seeds-3,000 weigh no more than an ounce.

Although native to California, giant sequoias have been planted worldwide because of their landscape appeal, their extremely rapid growth, and their unique wood properties.

Changes in Grove Ecology

Fire: Friend or Foe

For thousands of years, lightning fires burned through the Sierra Nevada's forests every few years. Destructive forest fires during the latter part of the nineteenth century, however, led to the belief that all forest fires should be suppressed. Once the Forest Service began managing lands in the Sierra Nevada, about 1905, most fires in the Sierra's National Forests were fought aggressively and suppressed.

Historically, fire had played an important role in giant sequoia grove ecology. Fires eliminated competing trees and burned off undergrowth, creating proper conditions for giant sequoia growth. Giant sequoia seeds need bare mineral soil for germination, and seedlings must have large forest openings for sunlight.

In the 1950's and 1960's, both the Forest Service and the National Park Service noticed the effects that fire suppression policies were having on the groves. Many more shade-tolerant white fir and incense-cedar were growing in association with giant sequoias than would have been expected before wildfire suppression. Natural giant sequoia reproduction was not occurring in most groves, because thick vegetation and duff had developed on the forest floor.

Fire's natural role

The natural role of fire is to create optimum conditions for the survival of young sequoia trees. Fire burns away underbrush, exposes bare soil, and clears the forest floor of shade-producing plants.

Birth and early stages of seed growth

Giant sequoia seeds

The seed of the giant sequoia is amazingly small and lightweight. It rarely sprouts in dense vegetation or duff. Giant sequoia seeds depend on major vegetation disturbances, such as fire or logging, to survive.

Bare mineral soil

Bare soil seed beds are an important element for the giant sequoia seed's germination. Thick duff prevents the seed from reaching mineral soil and does not allow it sufficient moisture to sprout and survive.

Seedling survival: the critical stage

Seedlings grow best under an open canopy with full sunlight. Shading of seedlings can result in weakened trees and eventual death.

Looking Toward the Future

The Sequoiadendron giganteum is not endangered; it is a reproducing and evolving species. The USDA Forest Service is responsible for the conservation of 41 giant sequoia groves located on the Sequoia, Sierra and Tahoe National Forests.

The Forest Service goal is to preserve, protect, and restore the groves for the benefit and enjoyment of present and future generations. Currently some groves are in Wilderness, Botanical, Historical and Research Natural Areas. Management for the giant sequoia emphasizes grove protection, enhancement of aesthetic values, and natural ecosystem functions.

The Forest Service is currently

  • Mapping all giant sequoia grove boundaries with Global Positioning Satellite technology.
  • Co-Sponsoring a giant sequoia symposium to identify research needs.
  • Assisting in the acquisition of the privately owned Dillonwood Grove, a 1,540 acre forest within the boundaries of the Sequoia National Forest.
  • Advocating a corporate partnership effort to solicit funds to preserve, protect and restore this American landscape.


Treasures of a Nation

"Teddy Roosevelt put it best when he called our lands and wildlife, 'the property of unborn generations.' And then he said this about America's sequoias and redwoods: 'They should be kept just as we keep a great and beautiful cathedral.'

"Today, ours is the chance to keep that cathedral great and beautiful...
to ensure the splendor of America."
--President George Bush
March 22, 1990

Grove Ownership

Giant sequoia groves are found in both public and private ownership. While the majority of giant sequoia groves are found in National Forests or National Parks, approximately 10% of total grove acreage is privately owned.

Ownership/Management Acres

National Forests
National Forest total...........13,761

National Parks..................11,250
Private Land.....................3,390
State, Tulare County,
Bureau of Land Mgmt.,
Tule River Indian
University of California.........5,112
Total Acres of
Giant Sequoia Groves............33,513


Research Links

Virtualology is not affiliated with the authors of these links nor responsible for its content.

US News: A White House move to save giant sequoias (4/24/00 ...
... US News 4/24/00. Looking out for the forest and the trees White
House moves to protect giant sequoias. ...

HIKING, Trail of 100 Giants / Sequoia National Forest
... Trail of a Hundred Giants. Information & Maps provided by US Forest Service / Department
of Agriculture. ... Back to Hiking Menu Back to Hiking Guide. Giant Sequoias. ...

Giant Sequoias @ Keith and Scotty's Views of Yosemite
... Giant Sequoias (Sequoia gigantea or Sequoiadendron giganteum). ... Three groves of giant
sequoias are within Yosemite: the Mariposa, Tuolumne, and Merced Groves. ...

Clinton Creates Monument To Protect Giant Sequoias
... Clinton Creates Monument To Protect Giant Sequoias Designation
to End Mining, Logging On 328,000 Acres ...

Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias
Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias Yosemite National
Park Map of the Mariposa Grove. Well, Giant ...

04/07/00 -- National Monument for Giant Sequoias Recommended
... National Monument for Giant Sequoias Recommended. *****. ...

DJC.COM: Agriculture secretary urges protection for giant ...
... April 10, 2000. Agriculture secretary urges protection
for giant sequoias. By BART ...

GORP - Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, Adventure, Travel, ...
... of the Kaweah River races below. To the north lies the Giant Forest plateau, where
giant sequoias rise above their puny neighbors. The tallest, 275-foot-tall ...

New Growth: Mature Trees
GIANT SEQUOIA Sequoiadendron giganteum. Also known as Giant Redwood. An impressive
addition to large landscape areas. Giant sequoia trees have the most massive ...

Giant Sequoia
... Welcome to our site on the Giant Sequoias. We think these trees are the coolest because
they are so huge even though they come from a seed the size of a grain ...

... For Questions and Comments, please mail to
This page was created: 12/07/97, This page was last modified:10/06/98. ...

Calaveras Big Trees Home Page
Introduction, General Information ... of the Park. Copyright
1995 DPR. Designed by Joe von Herrmann.

Giant Sequoias
Giant Sequoias. Giant Sequoias and the Sierra Club by Joe Fontaine;
More Facts About The Giant Sequoia of the Southern Sierra. ...

17 April 2000 : Clinton protects giant sequoias with order
... Email this page Clinton protects giant sequoias with order SEQUOIA NATIONAL FOREST,
California: In the shadow of one of the world's oldest and largest trees ...

National Monument Proclamations under the Antiquities Act
... 00 California Coastal National Monument, CA* (Bureau of Land Management) 4/15/00
Giant Sequoia National Monument, CA (USDA Forest Service) 6/08/00 Hanford Reach ...

Photos of Lost Grove Giant Sequoias - Central California ...
Sequoia Photos. Photos of Lost Grove Giant Sequoias.
Photos of Lost Grove Giant Sequoias ...

Re: Correction, there are Giant Sequoias in the foothills.
Re: Correction, there are Giant Sequoias in the foothills.
[ Follow Ups ] [ Post Followup ...

clife_log0003: Fwd: Hume Lake / Giant Sequoias - Time to act ...
Fwd: Hume Lake / Giant Sequoias - Time to act!!! From:
Valerie Nagel (vjnagel@ucdavis ...

SCI 2008: Giant Sequoias Management and History - ...
... by Last modified: August 19, 1999, Giant Sequoias Management
and History Environmental Education - Grades K-12 This course provides an ...

Giant Sequoias - Yosemite National Park
The Big Tree is Nature's forest masterpiece, and so far as I know, the
greatest of living things. --John Muir. Giant Sequoias. ...

Yosemite Giant Sequoias
Giant Sequoias. The Big Tree is Nature's forest masterpiece, and
so far as I know, the greatest of living things. --John Muir ...

giant sequoia genus and species description
... only species within the giant sequoia genus. Giant sequoias are the largest trees
ever to inhabit the earth, and are among the oldest. Heights of 300 feet and ...

Stark Joins Colleagues in Plea to Save the Giant Sequoias
Stark Joins Colleagues in Plea to Save the Giant Sequoias. President Clinton
Agrees and Establishes The Giant Sequoia National Monument. ...

Giant Sequoias and Fire
... Giant Sequoias and Fire. ... Return to the Fire and Park Resources page to read some
of the research papers that have been written on fire and Giant Sequoias. ...

Environment News Service: Glickman Recommends National Monument ...
... Giant sequoias require forest fires to prompt their seed cones to open (Photo
by Marion Matthews, courtesy Sequoia National Forest). ...

Giant Sequoia
... Nevada range of California. The full height of the tree, which was felled by lumberjacks
in 1891, exceeded 300 feet. There are even bigger giant sequoias. ...

Start your search on Sequoias .

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