Trees are some of the oldest known living organism on the planet. Surviving on this planet for 385 million years, only a handful of organisms live longer lives, mostly sponges, coral, and bacteria. Trees have survived nearly every disaster this planet has seen and there are trees on this planet that have been alive for millennia. While the trees themselves cannot speak, the record they contain inside their bark help modern scientists understand what the world looked in ancient times. For the record the oldest living human on record was 122 years, a mere speck of time to some of these trees.
In the United States in the Sierra Nevada Mountains resides a giant sequoia known as The President. It is approximately 3,200 years old and is one of a number of giant sequoias that have lived in Sequoia National Park near Visalia, California. Giant sequoia are amongst the tallest trees in the world and this tree is no exception. It is the third largest tree in the world, with its trunk measuring 45,000 cubic feet and an additional 9,000 cubic feet of branches.It stands 247 feet tall, a true giant. (If you are wondering both of the two larger trees also reside nearby) The tree is named in honor of Warren Harding, the 23rd President of the United States. Also nearby is Chief Sequoia, the 27th tallest tree in the world, and two stands of medium-sized sequoias representing the House and the Senate. Only appropriate to keep The President company and act as a check and balance.
The President Tree has nearly 2 billion leaves and over 80,000 cones. Imagine raking that up in the fall! It is still growing as well, adding over 20 feet during the past decade and the tree is so big that a National Geographic photo shoot in 2012 took 126 photos the cover the entire tree.
As mentioned the largest tree in the world is nearby and that is the General Sherman tree at 52,000 cubic feet in volume and an age of 2,000 years old. Sherman stands at around 275 feet tall and its largest branch is seven feet thick. The tree grows enough new wood every year to make a normal 60 foot tree making General Sherman the largest tree on the planet and it will also not be likely to be ceding the title anytime soon. That is a lot of wood that could be used for hardwood floors! Of course General Sherman could not be found without General Grant so nearby is another large tree named in his honor. In fact the park was originally conceived to protect the grove that General Grant calls home and was originally called General Grant National Park. This was believed to be the world’s tallest tree until 1931 when it was confirmed that Sherman was taller (The real Sherman was also taller in real life). President Calvin Coolidge declared it the “Nation’s Christmas Tree” in 1926 and President Dwight Eisenhower declared it a “National Shrine” to remember those who died in war, the only living object to have that distinction. It is believed the tree is about 1,650 years old and stands 267 feet tall. The real William T. Sherman would not have objected.
Grant and Sherman had to answer to Abraham Lincoln so it is fitting that also nearby is the Lincoln sequoia. Standing at about 256 feet and clocking in with around 44,500 cubic feet in volume it is the fourth largest tree in the world. Other nearby giant sequoias include trees named for George Washington, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. All of these trees are accessible to the public as part of Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park on trails within the parks. The General Sherman has its own trail which can link visitors to the other giant sequoias.
Also if you find yourself in California you might as well also take a visit to Hyperion, the world’s tallest tree. Discovered in 2006 the tree stands nearly 380 feet tall! Other redwoods nearby nearly come close like Icarus at 371 feet and Daedalus at 363 feet but close only counts in hand grenades and horseshoes. The location of these trees are kept a secret by the National Park Service in order to prevent vandalism but they are out there.
One interesting facts about these trees is that they do not die from old age. Their cause of death is toppling during a storm. One has to wonder if giant sequoias and redwoods could be immortal? They will outlive us, that is for sure.