Giant Sequoia Trees: What Should You Know?

The giant sequoia tree is related to the coastal redwood. There is only one of other type of redwood in the family. In fact, the giant sequoia is the largest tree species in the world. They hold this record for height and girth. Given that, the giant sequoia is an ancient species. Indeed, some individual trees live for thousands of years. Its habitat was widespread in prehistoric times, but the climate shift reduced the territory of the giant sequoia to the coast of the western United States.

Overall, scientists list the giant sequoia as endangered because it is struggling to thrive naturally. Severe over logging in the late 1800s and early 1900s resulted in a depleted population. Moreover, there are only a few small groves that are reproducing without human intervention. Similar to the coastal redwood, the giant sequoia is quite fire resistant, which is a major advantage growing in the wildfire-stricken state of California.

So How Many Kinds of Giant Sequoia Trees are There?

The giant sequoia or the Sequoiadendron giganteum is the only living species of the Sequoiadendron genus. The genus only contains two species. The other species has been extinct for close to 5 million years. There are only three species of coniferous redwoods. Additionally, together they make up the subfamily, Sequoioideae. The three trees are the giant sequoia, the coastal redwood, and the dawn redwood. Furthermore, all the trees are part of the Cupressaceae family. There are less than 80,000 giant sequoias remaining and scientists consider them an endangered species.

Giant Sequoia Trees lost in fires

According to, scientists estimate that recent forest fires in 2020 and 2021 depleted this number further by almost 10,000 trees.

How Large do Giant Sequoia Trees Grow?

Giant sequoias are the largest tree on the planet today. They hold this title for both height and girth. For one thing, giant sequoias will grow to 250 feet in height. Many giant sequoias grow to 30 feet in width. As they mature, branches are no longer found on the lower half of the trunk. Overall, giant sequoias grow in a tapered shape, with the branches found on the top half of the trunk.

What Does a Giant Sequoia Tree Look Like?

Giant sequoias look like towers in the forest. They tower over all the other trees with only their close relations, the coastal redwood and the dawn redwood, coming even close. They exhibit the deep red bark unique to the family. Overall, the bark is very thick and difficult to remove. As shown above, the branches grow on the top half of the tree. The giant sequoia is a coniferous tree with bluish-green needles. The needles are short and sharp. The cones are thick and shaped like eggs.

Where Can I Find a Giant Sequoia Tree?

The giant sequoias only grow in a small range. They thrive in mountainous regions of California. Altogether, they can only be found growing in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The giant sequoia grows best at elevations of 5,000 to 7,000 feet. The mountains have a cycle of dry weather that allows the cones of the giant sequoia to open. This allows them some attempt at germination, though almost all cones that fall fail. Together with the coastal redwood, the giant sequoia has a very specific climate in which it can live. Overall, the giant sequoia grows naturally in a small strip of land of 260 miles that covers California.

How Long Can a Giant Sequoia Tree Live?

These exceptional trees also live an exceptionally long time. Many of the living trees have been on this earth for thousands of years. This has made it difficult for scientists to rebuild the depleted population. Many factors have gone into the depletion, including human interaction like logging and wild fires. Moreover, the giant sequoia is a fast-growing tree which yields to its great size at maturity. They grow quickly and even continue to grow at a slower rate for the rest of their life. Equally important, scientists estimate that the living giant sequoias are some of the oldest organisms on the planet. Out of the 70 groves still existing naturally, many of the trees are close to 3000 years old.

Can I Grow a Giant Sequoia Tree?

While you can grow a giant sequoia on your own, there are a lot of factors that come into play. The giant sequoia is not an easy species to grow. The climate is the most important factor. Giant sequoias thrive in temperate climate, which is most often found in the Northwest United States. Summers are drier in the northwest. The giant sequoia can grow successfully in Washington, Oregon, and California, even in a backyard. However, the Northeastern United States has seen minor success because of the humid summers that occur. The remaining of the United States is too hot, too humid, or too low in elevation.

Giant sequoias were transplanted into Europe with some success. There are regions of Europe that boast similar climates to the Western United States. Altogether, the United Kingdom, France, and Italy all claim giant sequoias. Scientists brought specimens over and planted them in the 1850s. The growth rate is excellent in Europe. The trees planted in the 1850s are already standing almost 200 feet

Giant sequoia cones can be picky about growth. If you plan to plant a viable cone, you will need to put it in the freezer for a few weeks and then expose it to heat so that we trick it into feeling winter is over. They will also demand a moist soil and cannot be buried too deeply. In the long run, light is key. If you are successful in germinating a seed, you will see a small plant in several days. Taking care of the seedling is key and will continue to be a tricky venture. However, many people are successful in the challenge of giant sequoia growth.

It is Time to BRANCH out into some fun tree facts!

  • The largest giant sequoia resides in Sequoia National Park. Arborists named the tree General Sherman and he stands at 275 feet in height. He has a circumference of 102 feet.
  • According to National Park Services, the oldest giant sequoia is also found in the Sequoia National Park. Scientists estimate the oldest giant sequoia to be 3,266 years old.
  • The oldest giant sequoia in Europe is 166 years old and can is found in France.

What are Some Uses for Giant Sequoia Trees?

While lumberjacks heavily logged giant sequoias in the 1800s for their sheer volume of lumber, we do not use lumber from the giant sequoia today. We heavily protect the giant sequoia since the species is endangered and numbers are dwindling quickly. Many of the trees alive today will face natural deaths soon. Control of the population is vital to keeping this species on our planet. Someone can likely not count the benefits that the Sierra Nevada Mountains receive, including fire and flood control as well as habitats for many animals and insects.

Natural Uses

The giant sequoias still found naturally in close to 70 groves in the United States give untold benefits to the lands they habitat. They give flood control to the lands by absorbing and holding melting snow and rainfall. Altogether, many insects and animals flourish around the trunks of giant sequoias, including beetles, bears, and chickadees. Similar to many other trees, we use giant sequoias for many herbal benefits.

Artistic Uses

Many are attempting to plant giant sequoias for ornamental uses. The right climate is key, but they make an excellent and beautiful addition to any garden or backyard. Their beauty makes them a highly sought-after destination. Moreover, artists use these formidable beasts in all kinds of artwork.

Residential/Commercial Uses

In the 1800s, there was an attempt to use the sheer size of the redwoods for lumber. However, the wood is very brittle. Logging practices led to significant amounts of lumber breaking during the logging process. The burn rate of the giant sequoia lumber is low, so it was not even well used for firewood. It is fire and rot resistant, which is why it was so sought after. The lumber is light and weak. Furthermore, if logging practices improved, we would likely find giant sequoia wood everywhere. The carcasses of fallen giant sequoias from hundreds of years ago show very little decay.

Wrap Up

Overall, the giant sequoia is a magnificent example of pre-historic growth. These might trees stand at hundreds of feet tall and live for thousands of years. They are by far the largest trees still dominating our planet. We can only find them naturally in a small 260-mile strip in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. However, arborists in the 1800s successfully transplanted giant sequoias in Europe.

We list the giant sequoia as endangered, and attention needs to be drawn to the risk of losing this fine species of trees. Wildfires throughout California constantly threaten their existence despite their strong fire-resistance. In the last two years alone, almost 10,000 of the remaining trees were lost. Highly dependent on your climate, you may find success in growing your own giant sequoia. If you are successful, it will give you a beautiful coniferous tree that will certainly outlive you and your grandchildren. Regardless of your climate, you can still visit these might giants at the Sequoia National Park in California.

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