• Giant Sequoia Trees

    Sequoia & Kings Canyon

    National Parks California

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  • Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Institute Stage 2 Fire Restrictions

    Effective July 28, 2014, the parks are in Stage 2 fire restrictions. See link below for more information. These restrictions will remain in place until further notice. More »

  • Road Construction Delays on Park Roads for 2014 Season

    Expect occasional 15-minute to 1-hour delays in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks on weekdays only (times vary), including delays to/from the General Sherman Tree, Crystal Cave, and Grant Grove. More »

  • Vehicle Length Limits in Sequoia National Park (if Entering/Exiting Hwy 198)

    Planning to see the "Big Trees" in Sequoia National Park? If you enter/exit via Hwy. 198, and your vehicle is longer than 22 feet (combined length), please pay close attention to vehicle length advisories for your safety and the safety of others. More »

  • You May Have Trouble Calling Us

    We are experiencing technical problems receiving incoming phone calls. We apologize for the inconvenience. Please send us an email to SEKI_Interpretation@nps.gov or check the "More" link for trip-planning information. More »

Giant Sequoias and Fire

Smoke curls up from burning duff on the ground in a sequoia grove

Photo by Nate Stephenson

The Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) is truly the most awesome species in the Sierra Nevada ecosystem. As in other living communities, sequoia groves - and the mixed conifer forests that contain them - have evolved with and adapted to natural processes that must continue if the community is to remain healthy. Fire is one of the major processes essential to the health of giant sequoia groves.

In the early 1960s, Dr. Richard Hartesveldt explored the connection between fire and sequoia regeneration. His small-scale prescribed fires followed nearly a century of fire suppression, and resulted in the germination of sequoia seeds and the recruitment of sequoia seedlings - something that had not occurred in the absence of fire.

Since those first experiments, researchers have further shown the benefits to sequoias from fire. Dendrochronology has determined that low intensity surface fires swept through the big trees approximately every 5 to 15 years. Sequoias rely on fire to release most seeds from their cones, to expose bare mineral soil in which seedlings can take root, to recycle nutrients into the soil, and to open holes in the forest canopy through which sunlight can reach young seedlings.

Sequoias also need fire to reduce competition from species such as white fir (Abies concolor) and Incense cedar (Calocedrus decurrens), which are shade-tolerant and able to recruit seedlings in heavy litter and duff. Fire suppression has resulted in heavy accumulation of forest litter and the encroachment of thick stands of white fir and incense cedar, both of which compete with sequoias for water and nutrients. A natural fire cycle thins these competing species, and provides suitable conditions for sequoia growth.

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

Did You Know?

Trail sign.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks offer more than 850 miles of maintained wilderness trails. Over 723,000 of the parks' acres are officially designated as Wilderness. More...