Giant Sequoias Virtual Field Trip
Have you ever imagined that a single tree could be nearly 3,000 years old ? That when it first took root, the high point of the Greek civilization had not yet even happened in the Mediterranean. Nor had the Gabrielino Indians arrived on the California Channel Islands from their Great Basin journey. 3,000 years ago there were giant redwood forests in California, covering moist slopes at a time when there was more precipitation than we see today.
When the first white settlers arrived on the western coast of America, the landscape was covered with old growth trees, already thousands of years old. Rapid development wiped out nearly all of these trees in the quest for building and railroad lumber. Today only a few isolated stands of these noble elder trees remain. Let’s go visit them and consider their great age – and their amazing heights and circumferences up to 40 feet in diameter. Some even had rooms carved into them in the late 1800s as summertime visitor points of interest – one even could be driven through due to an arch that was cut through it.
Giant Sequoias of the Sierras
On the western slopes of the Sierras there remain several thousand acres of redwood stands, and they are being protected for our enjoyment and education. At the southern entrance to Yosemite stands the Mariposa Grove. This is the grove that John Muir introduced to Ralph Waldo Emerson, the leading American Transcendentalist in the late 1800s. Here painters from around the world came to try to capture the majesty of these spectacular trees. And photographers too came to record their magnificent girth.
How big is this tree ? Compare it to the building behind it.
Here is another view to show the scale of these trees – which are not even the largest ones ! Look at the doorway of the building to get an idea what size a man would be in comparison to the tree’s trunk..
And though so large, their leaves are very delicate .. and it is amazing these small leaves provide enough respiration and gather enough sunlight to support such a massive trunk.
One of the greatest dangers facing the Giant Sequoias today is that they require the intense heat of a forest fire inorder to regenerate. But for public safety, forest fires are prevented. Yet it is this very heat that opens the cone and releases the seeds to begin new trees.
Giant Sequoia cones.
(green is fresh, the brown had fallen and is dried)
National Parks link about the Mariposa Grove http://www.nps.gov/yose/winter99/sequoias.htm