Native Village 
Youth and Education News

January 1, 2013

Giant Sequoia Tree 'The President' Tops 'General Grant'
Condensed by Native Village


California: Deep in the Sierra Nevada, the famous General Grant giant sequoia tree is suffering a loss of stature. It was once was the world's No. 2 biggest tree.  Now, thanks to new measurements taken of the largest living things on Earth, things have changed.

General Grant

The new No. 2 is The President, a 54,000-cubic-foot gargantuan not far from the Grant in Sequoia National Park. After 3,240 years, The President is still growing wider at a steady rate. This surprised scientists who are  examining how sequoias and coastal redwoods are affected by climate change and if these trees can help combat it. 

Scientist Steve Sillett’s new studies have yielded revelations, including this: these old trees are still growing fast.

"I consider (redwoods) to be the greatest tree in all of the mountains of the world," Sillett said. His team from Humboldt State University is seeking to mathematically assess the potential of redwoods to absorb planet-warming carbon dioxide.

The researchers are a part of the Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative funded by the Save the Redwoods League.

The President's measurements dispels the notion that redwoods grow more slowly in old age. That means the amount of carbon dioxide redwoods absorb during photosynthesis increases as the trees age.

The President adds about one cubic meter of wood a year during its short six-month growing season. It's
2,000,000,000 leaves might be the most of any tree on the planet. This makes it among the most efficient at transforming carbon dioxide into nourishing sugars during photosynthesis.

"We're not going to save the world with any one strategy, but part of the value of these great trees is this contribution and we're trying to get a handle on the math behind that," Sillett said.

The President

Is 93 feet in circumference
45,000 cubic feet of trunk volume
9,000 cubic feet of volume in its branches
Has a large crown with burly branches
as large as tree trunks.


This makes it 15% larger than General Grant. Sliced into one-foot by one-foot cubes, The President would cover a football field.

Giant sequoias grow so big and for so long because their wood is resistant to the pests and disease. Their thick bark makes them impervious to fast-moving fire.  Such resiliency makes sequoias and their taller coastal redwood cousin worthy of intensive protections and perhaps cultivation.

Though sequoias are native to California, early settlers took seedlings back to the British Isles and New Zealand. In
1850, one of those seedlings was planted in New Zealand. Today, that sequoia has a 15-foot diameter and is the world's biggest planted tree.

The world's biggest tree is still California's General Sherman with about
2,000 cubic feet more volume than the President. But to Sillett, it's not a contest.

"They're all superlative in their own way," he said.

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