Giant Sequoia: The World's Biggest Trees

Women hugs the base of a giant redwood tree in California.
Women hugs the base of a giant redwood tree in California.

Trees exist in different sizes (height and trunk diameter) and of ages all around the world. One such tree is the giant sequoia tree, scientifically known as Sequoiadendron giganteum, which is easily among the largest trees on earth. Other names for the tree include giant redwood, Sierran redwood, big tree, Sierra redwood, and Wellingtonia. The largest giant sequoia trees can grow as tall as 26-story buildings and have a basal width that may be as much as a city street. Aside from the large size, they are among the earth’s fastest growing organisms in a year. This particular species is native to the Sierra Nevada’s western slopes in the US state of California.

Size and Age

Giant sequoias can grow to average heights of between 164 and 279 feet with the trunks having diameters of between 20 and 26 feet. Incredibly, some have been recorded to have heights as high as 311 feet. Aside from massive size, they are among the earth’s oldest living organisms with the oldest known tree being over 3,200 years old. Reproduction of the tree is through a seed, which comes in the form of a cone that has a length of between 1.5 and three inches. A single mature tree can produce as many as 11,000 cones with most cones coming from the upper canopy. Since it is brittle, the tree is not that suitable for construction work although it is known for producing quality timber while some places use them as Christmas trees.

Range and Distribution

Giant sequoias are naturally occurring only in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains at heights of between 5,000 and 8,000 feet above sea level. There are around 68 groves growing spanning over an area of around 35,620 aces. Most of these are under the protection of Sequoia National Park, the Giant Sequoia National Monument, and Kings Canyon National Park. Despite a relatively small distribution area today, it is possible that there was once a wider distribution in North America as well as in Europe and Oceania.

Largest Giant Sequoias

The largest of these trees have been named. General Sherman is the largest with a trunk volume of 52,508 cubic feet and a height of around 274.9 feet. General Grant is second with a height of 269.1 feet and bole volume of around 46,608 cubic feet. Other significant giant sequoias include the President, Lincoln, Stagg, and Boole.


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