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The General Sherman tree is the largest tree in the world by its volume. Its base measures over 36 feet in circumference and this tree is 275 feet tall. Sequoia trunks are quite wide at the top.
The Sherman Tree has a girth of 17.5 feet at a height of 60 feet from the base. Although there are other trees in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks that are tall and very wide, none of them are as heavy or wide as this behemoth.
“I walked in the forest and came out higher than the trees.” – Henry David Thoreau
It grows enough trees to create a new 60-foot-tall tree each year. If you’re having trouble understanding the scale, you’re not alone. One of General Sherman’s branches is about 7 feet in diameter. This dwarfs most plants east of the Mississippi River in size.
Let’s learn all about this magnificent natural wonder that attracts visitors from all over the world!
History of General Sherman Wood
The General Sherman Tree, the largest known living single-stemmed tree on Earth, is located in Sequoia National Park. It is estimated that the tree is 2300-2700 years old. How was the name “General Sherman Tree” chosen?
What an interesting tale! The tree is believed to have been discovered in 1879 by cowboy and fur trapper James Wolverton. James had never seen a tree as big as it. He previously served as a lieutenant in the 9th Indiana Calvary under General William Tecumseh Sherman. Therefore, he decided to name the tree after his commander.
The plot thickens
This is where the story starts to get interesting. The Kaweah Colony, a socialist utopian society, explored the area in 1884. They were looking for trees to cut down. They found this giant tree and named it Karl Marx after the man who created communism.
After the creation of Sequoia National Park in 1890, soldiers were sent to the region. They discovered these Kaweah colonists and drove them away. Did the military give a new name to the tree?
The only supporting documentation was a park guide issued in 1921. James Wolverton and the General Sherman Tree are the subject of the guide’s story. This is the first published account of the Wolverton Story.
It is reported that 42 years after the event, it suddenly happened. As a result, it becomes difficult to determine whether a report is correct or not.
Protection from forest fires
California’s dry, flammable vegetation and climate are major factors in the state’s high rate of wildfires. Almost every year in California, massive wildfires occur in the state that can be catastrophic to the environment and neighborhoods.
Due to property loss, poor air quality, intense heat and other impacts, these fires regularly and unfortunately force Californians to leave their homes. The state is above all else to keep people and trees as safe as possible.
September saw the KNP Complex Fire, a lightning-caused wildfire in the Golden State, move into the Giant Forest, burning a General Sherman Tree, one of many giant sequoias covered in protective aluminum cladding.
Although giant sequoias are fire-dependent and can withstand the heat of modest fires because of their dense, insulating bark, more serious fires have injured or killed numerous giant sequoias in the past six years.
Additional measures have been taken to prevent burning of tree trunks and sensitive fire scars, which are indicative of the many fires these trees have endured in the past.
Firefighters have noticed a change in wildfire activity as they approach previously burned areas as the Giant Forest has undergone multiple controlled burns in recent years. Due to the mild behavior of the fire, firefighters were able to build a fire line near the Giant Forest to prevent the flames from spreading into the Giant Forest.
Firefighters climbed further into the base of the General Sherman Tree using wooden braces and then wrapped protective foil around the lower 10 to 15 feet of the tree. This substance, which is also used to protect buildings, reduces the possibility of fire spreading to open areas such as old burn marks.
Visiting the world’s largest sequoia
From August to October, when the weather is usually pleasant and the weather is good, early morning is the ideal time to visit the General Sherman Tree. Winter is also a great time to visit to see the breathtaking juxtaposition of snow and the bark of red sequoias.
“Giant redwoods or sequoias should be preserved just as we preserve a great and beautiful cathedral.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Bushfires are still a significant risk this season, so make sure your arrangements are adaptable and you have a back-up plan in case it affects your trip.
Sherman’s tree can be reached in two ways. Off Wolverton Road, there is parking for the Primary Trail; just follow the signs. A half-mile trail leads to the tree. It is paved and consists of several steps.
As you continue, you will reach a sequoia grove known as the Giant Forest. The natural history of the giant sequoias is explained in exhibits along the way. The direction is backward. Handicap parking permits are accepted in a small lot off Generals Highway.
A little further in, a wheelchair-friendly path leads you to the tree. During transit season, if you don’t have a permit but can’t drive Main Road, you can use park shuttles for an accessible road. If you are physically able, another option is to enter the main trail, go to Sherman’s Tree, and then go to the service station on General’s Highway. You can avoid the trend by taking a shuttle back to where you parked.
The slender roots of the Sherman tree are protected by a fence. Please help the park preserve the tree by following the paved path.
Why are sequoia trees so big?
Why are sequoia trees able to live so long? They have the ability to defend themselves from the dangers created by nature. Tannic acid, which can be found in the sap of trees, prevents parasites, low-intensity burns and fungal decay. It also serves as fire protection.
These incredible trees can only be propagated by seed. About twenty years pass, during which time these seeds are attached to pine cones without exposure to sunlight. Incredibly, the heat generated by wildfires naturally helps spread these seeds through the soil.
These trees generally have a lifespan of 3,000 years, making them the third longest-lived tree species. These trees range in size from the smallest to the tallest and are 26 stories high.
Here is another interesting fact. Sequoia National Park was the first park that was actually established to save an animal. In fact, these giant sequoia trees thrive between 5,000 and 8,000 feet above sea level.
You may wonder how that is possible. Sequoia’s mild winters provide the ideal natural environment for these stunning specimens to thrive and flourish. Sequoia National Park has more to offer than just big trees.
The highest mountain in the lower 48 contiguous states is located in Sequoia. The highest mountain in the neighboring United States is Mount Whitney. It is 14,505 feet above sea level. The west side of the mountain is located in Sequoia National Park. The summit is at the southern end of the John Muir Trail.
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