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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
- 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
"Today, ours is the chance to keep that cathedral great and beautiful...
to ensure the splendor of America."
--President George Bush
March 22, 1990
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.
National Forest total...........13,761
State, Tulare County,
Bureau of Land Mgmt.,
Tule River Indian
University of California.........5,112
Total Acres of
Giant Sequoia Groves............33,513
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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.
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. ...
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
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. *****. ...
Agriculture secretary urges protection for giant ...
... April 10, 2000. Agriculture secretary urges protection
for giant sequoias. By BART ...
- Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, Adventure, Travel, ...
... of the Kaweah River races below. To the north lies the Giant Forest plateau,
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
addition to large landscape areas. Giant sequoia trees have the most massive ...
... Welcome to our site on the Giant Sequoias. We think these trees are the
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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
California: In the shadow of one of the world's oldest and largest trees ...
Proclamations under the Antiquities Act
... 00 California Coastal National Monument, CA* (Bureau of Land Management)
Giant Sequoia National Monument, CA (USDA Forest Service) 6/08/00 Hanford Reach
of Lost Grove Giant Sequoias - Central California ...
Sequoia Photos. Photos of Lost Grove Giant Sequoias.
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Correction, there are Giant Sequoias in the foothills.
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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 ...
sequoia genus and species description
... only species within the giant sequoia genus. Giant sequoias are the largest
ever to inhabit the earth, and are among the oldest. Heights of 300 feet and ...
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
of the research papers that have been written on fire and Giant Sequoias. ...
News Service: Glickman Recommends National Monument ...
... Giant sequoias require forest fires to prompt their seed cones to open
by Marion Matthews, courtesy Sequoia National Forest). ...
... Nevada range of California. The full height of the tree, which was felled by
in 1891, exceeded 300 feet. There are even bigger giant sequoias. ...