The Giants of Sequoia and Kings Canyon
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(Giant Sequoia—Sequoia Gigantea)

The General Sherman and the General Grant Trees are the largest of the giant Sequoias now known. Many others rank very close to these, including the Washington, Lincoln, and President Trees of Giant Forest; the Hart Tree in Redwood Canyon; the Boole Tree in Converse Basin near Grant Grove; and the Grizzly Giant in Yosemite.

It is sometimes difficult to appreciate the size of these trees because neighboring trees also are so large. Perhaps some comparisons will help in gaining a concept of their massive dimensions. Both the Sherman and Grant Trees are as tall as the average 16 story building, and the width at the base exceeds that of many city streets. At least 20 railroad cars would be required to move the trunks alone, which contain as much wood as is produced on 20 acres of average California pine forest. As far as known, the General Sherman is "the largest living thing in the world." The dimensions are:

General ShermanGeneral Grant
Height above mean base272.4 Ft.267.4 Ft
Base circumference101.6107.6
Maximum base diameter36.540.3
Mean base diameter32.233.3
Diameter 60 feet above ground17.518.8
Diameter 120 feet above ground17.015.0
Diameter 180 feet above ground14.012.9
Height to first large branch130.0129.0
Diameter of largest branch6.84.5
Weight of trunk, approximate625 Tons565 Tons
Total volume of trunk50,010 Cu. Ft.45,232 Cu. Ft.

The large branch growing from the south side of the General Sherman trunk, 130 feet above the base, is 6.8 feet in diameter, and is 140 feet tall. This branch itself is larger and taller than most Eastern forest trees.

The size of these trees is no less impressive than their great age. Any one of the largest of these giant sequoias may claim title to "the oldest living thing in the world", for the age of these massive trees cannot be readily determined while they are still standing.* The coring instruments now used to tell the age of lesser trees will not penetrate to the heart of of the giant sequoia. The ages of these trees can be estimated only on the basis of size in comparison with tree ring counts made on fallen trees. Those who have studied these trees estimate that trees the size of the General Sherman and General Grant may be from 3000 to 4000 years old. During this time they have withstood the ravages of countless fires, and though damaged, have continued to flourish, and today produce thousands of cones bearing fertile seeds from which many young trees may be grown. The oldest sequoia known had 3,126 annual rings, but John Muir reported one tree stomp in Converse Basin which was 4000 years old.

*The bristlecone pines, found near 10,000 feet in the White Mountains of California, are the oldest known living things. One of these gnarled trees is over 4,600 years old.

The General Grant Tree Photo by Howard R. Stagner, National Park Service

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Last Updated: 02-Feb-2007