Last updated: August 25, 2014
Among the mightiest and noblest of Yosemite's trees are the giant sequoias. These trees are often referred to as "the biggest living things!" In Yosemite, some of these trees have a diameter as large as 29 feet. Many giant sequoias in the Mariposa Grove are older than 1,000 years old. Imagine the stories these giants could tell!
In the Mariposa Grove, there are a number of impressive individual trees. However, the "real" story of the trees is not the tree itself;but rather, it's the story of natural processes that help maintain a healthy giant sequoia forest. The success of these trees can't solely be attributed to one factor such as the hardiest seed. A tree's success is the result of many factors, some known and others unknown.
When seeing these trees, one must look at the forest and imagine how things like hydrology, sunlight, elevation, and slope, helped to determine which trees survived and which trees grew taller or larger. Additionally, think beyond these factors to the forest's natural processes. For example, imagine how rocks, soil, and leaf litter help trees to grow. In addition, consider the role of fire. All of these factors help to maintain a healthy ecosystem and a thriving home for giant sequoias.
As you walk in awe of the trees in the Mariposa Grove, remember that any one tree hasn't survived on its own but rather grows in relationship to an entire forest system. It's good to know facts about trees –height, age, leaf pattern, etc. However, I'd encourage you to take a moment on your next sequoia exploration and consider the forest that makes these giants grow. Each step you take into the forest can help you uncover the story of trees and allow you to explore the relationship of plants, animals, and weather's role in the life of a tree.
When looking up at a giant sequoia, it's good to know that only exceptional individuals grow to be 311 feet tall and measure up to 40 feet in diameter. It is equally important to look around at the forest;because, how we look at the forest can help us look at these trees and better understand how many processes are at work. John Muir said, "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe."