Trees aren’t genetically programmed to die. They die because something like a fire ripped through their environment, they fall over, or they’re destroyed by lightning.
Trees continually grow until they die. Each year, a ring is made in a tree, making it possible for humans to track their age. Age estimations can also be made based on the girth of a tree at the base.
Sequoias are endangered in the wild, and their small ranges continue to shrink. While redwoods are cultivated by humans, ancient examples are disappearing every year. What are the oldest sequoia trees still alive?
What Is a Sequoia (Sequioideae) Tree?
There are three types of sequoias in existence. They are the dawn redwood, the giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum), and the coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens).
Giant sequoias, or Sierra redwoods, are not only the most massive trees on the planet, but they can live to be over three thousand years old. These giant sequoias are huge coniferous cypress trees, and they’re only found at a specific elevation on portions of the western Sierra Nevada in California.
Coast redwoods live on the west coast of the United States in Oregon and California. The largest specimens are in California, and these redwoods are the tallest trees in the world. They’re also among the oldest.
Dawn redwoods are native to Lichuan County in China. While they’re still large trees, they’re the shortest of the three sequoias on earth and don’t set records. They are the only deciduous redwoods, and they lose their leaves every fall.
The 5 Oldest Sequoia Trees Still Alive
Sequoias, on average, are the third oldest trees on the planet. While most sequoias reach a maximum of 800 years in age, some make it thousands of years. There are probably trees older than those on our list in nature that have gone undiscovered.
Helios is a coastal sequoia that’s a little over 2,000 years old. It is the oldest known coast redwood tree, and it is also the second tallest tree in the world.
Coast redwood trees can only thrive if there is constant moisture in the air. Some areas of Northern California and Oregon offer Pacific Ocean moisture that fits the bill. This water in the air allows the trees to survive even when a severe drought occurs.
Helios has a home in the Redwood National Park in California. Details and the exact location of this tree have not been released for conservation purposes. It is on a slope overlooking Dry Heaves Creek.
4. General Sherman
General Sherman is a giant sequoia between 2,200 to 2,700 years old. It is also the largest single-stem tree on the planet at a height of 275 feet. Its base is 36 feet around, and it contains over 52,000 cubic feet of wood.
Because this sequoia is accessible by two well-marked paths, it is the most photographed and visited giant sequoia in Sequoia National Park. It’s in the Giant Forest Grove.
In 2021, General Sherman was cloaked in a material that repels flames to protect it from a fire raging through the park. It survived and continues to grow.
3. Robert E. Lee
Located in Kings Canyon National Park in California, Robert E. Lee is around 2,600 years old. It’s the eleventh-largest sequoia in existence.
It’s the second largest tree in an area of the park called Grant Grove. This grove is near the town of Three Rivers, California.
In response to the George Floyd Protests, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks stopped referring to this tree as Robert E. Lee in 2020. Its name cannot be officially changed until it’s approved by the National Park Service and Congress.
2. Grizzly Giant
Yosemite National Park is home to a giant sequoia named Grizzly Giant. This tree is 2,995 years old.
It’s been struck by lightning multiple times. Sprinklers were used during the Washburn Fire on July 16, 2022, to protect the Grizzly Giant. It has a bark that’s over 2 feet thick.
It leans a few degrees to the southwest though it remains stable. Giant sequoias like this have shallow root systems intertwined with neighboring sequoias’ roots. Grizzly Giant is a tree that relies on its roots to remain upright.
It is the oldest sequoia in Yosemite and the most photographed tree in the park. Theodore Roosevelt took a picture under this tree in 1903. It is the twenty-sixth largest tree on earth.
It lives in the upper area of Mariposa Grove, which also homes several hundred other fully grown giant sequoias. One of its branches is over 95 feet high while being six feet around. In 1990, it was estimated to weigh around two million pounds.
1. The President
The President is the oldest sequoia at approximately 3,200 years old. It is also the third-largest tree in Sequoia National Park and the fifth-largest tree on earth. It is the oldest identified sequoia though it’s highly probable there are older ones that haven’t been discovered.
It is also known as the Warren Harding Tree, as that’s the president this tree references. The tree was named on August 10, 1923, after the twenty-ninth president.
The President recognizes Harding’s death which had occurred eight days prior. He died suddenly of a heart attack. The idea behind using this tree as a memorial was that it would stand as a monolith to the president in the same way that the Pyramids of Giza have endured for millennia.
This tree is about 250 feet tall and grows around 22 feet yearly. Part of its trunk is dead, but it still grows and appears healthy. It’s located in Giant Forest Grove in Sequoia National Park.
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