‘The President’ – The leader of the giant sequoias!

 The President in its entirety. Image courtesy of National Geographic [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons
The President in its entirety. Image courtesy of National Geographic [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

The natural range of the giant sequoia – California:

The giant sequoia trees form a narrow band along the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada range in California, which is their natural range.  The giant sequoias might not be the absolute tallest trees in the world, (this title goes to their close relatives, the coastal redwood) but they are the biggest in the world when looking at the volume of the trunk.  The Sequoia National Park in California is home to half of the Earth’s largest and longest-living giant sequoias trees.  The trees occur naturally in only a total area of 36,000 acres, at very high altitudes between 5,000 and 8,000 ft (~1500-2500m).  Whilst the trees natural distribution is restricted to a limited area of the western Sierra Nevada, the giant sequoia has been brought into cultivation all around the world. 


Living dinosaurs 

The Giant Sequoias have been traced back to the Triassic Period when the dinosaurs first appeared.  The trees were dominant in North America and Europe throughout the Jurassic Period (180-135 million years ago).  As the earth began to get cooler and drier at the end of the Cretaceous Period, the giant sequoias began to diminish in favour of plants more favourable to these conditions. They disappeared altogether from Europe, surviving only in western North America, where they still exist today in their only natural habitat.  The giant sequoias have been called ‘living dinosaurs’, but in fact they are much more than that. They not only pre-dated the arrival of the Dinosaurs, but also have outlived them now by 66 million years.


El Presidente

It’s not every tree that gets a name, especially one as prestigious as ‘The President’.   This particular giant sequoia (pictured right), located in the Sequoia National Park in California, was named after president Warren G, Harding in 1923.  Standing at around 75 meters tall, the President is by no means the tallest sequoia in the world, and at 8.2m in diameter it’s not the widest, but in terms of volume of the trunk and limbs it is one of the world’s largest, second only to the General Sherman, another giant sequoia in the Sequoia National Park.  The President is believed to be at least 3,200 years old, and in 2012 the trunk was measured to be 1,300 cubic meters, with an additional 250 cubic metres of branches.


Climbing this beauty

In its long history the President tree had never before been photographed in its entirety, until in 2009 a team from national geographic spent 32 days climbing this giant using rigging equipment and ultimately pieced together 126 separate images to get a most incredible full portrait of the giant (picture).  Photographers of the National Geographic team revealed their motivation for taking the portrait was that when people see the tree in its totality without distortion, they gasp.  And they were right, the first time I saw that image I gasped, I can only imagine how incredible it would be in the flesh.



I’m Lucky enough to be travelling along the west coast of the US in January 2015, so hopefully a visit to the snow capped President is something I can tick off my bucket list!