Nature Bulletin No. 62 April 20, 1946
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
Clayton F. Smith, President
Roberts Mann, Superintendent of Conservation
The oldest living thing on earth is a tree. Some of the giant sequoias in
California are more than 3500 years old. One of them, fallen, was
proven to be 3210 years old by a count of the annual growth rings. It
grew from a tiny seed which sprouted about the time when Joseph, with
the coat of many colors, was prime minister of Egypt and the known
world was in the middle bronze age.
The largest living thing on earth is a tree, the General Sherman, a giant
sequoia in Giant Forest, Sequoia National Park. It has a base diameter
of 30.7 feet, a diameter of 17 feet at 120 feet above the ground, and a
height of 272 feet. Its first large branch, starting at 130 feet above the
ground, is 6.8 feet in diameter and 150 feet long, itself larger than the
largest of many other tree species, yet an inconspicuous part of this
monster. The trunk of the General Sherman, exclusive of the limbs,
contains about 50,000 cubic feet wood and probably 250,000 board feet
of usable lumber could be obtained -- enough to build 15 five-room all-
wood houses. Two other giant sequoias, the General Grant and the
Boole, have base diameters of 33.3 and 33.2 feet respectively, but they
are not as high and taper more rapidly.
Probably the only other tree exceeding these in diameter and
circumference at the base is a tule cypress near Santa Maria del Tule,
Oaxaca, Mexico. It has a diameter of 36.1 feet and a circumference of
113 feet but is only 130 feet tall. It is probably about 3000 years old.
The tallest tree in the world is the Founders Tree, a redwood in
Humboldt Redwood State Park, California. It is 364 feet in height but
its base diameter is only 15.1 feet. The redwood is a sequoia and a close
cousin of the giant sequoia.
"Mighty oaks from little acorns grow" but the giant sequoias grow from
tiny flat seeds about the size of a pinhead.
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Update: June 2012