Many years ago when John and I were a young married couple, we traveled to California during leave from the US Army. Among many other attractions, including a steam train ride in Felton at Roaring Camp Railroads, we visited the Giant Sequoias or Redwoods (Sequoiadendron giganteum). One of the most iconic was the Pioneer Cabin Tree often referred to as the “Tunnel Tree,” in Calaveras Big Trees State Park. The tree, named for the tunnel that had been carved into its broad base in the 1880s, toppled this past Sunday, January 8, 2017 during an overwhelmingly heavy rain storm.
Native to California, the Giant Sequoias grow naturally in groves only on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The oldest are upwards of 3,000 years with heights of more than 350 ft and diameters of 26 ft or more. Their bark is fibrous, furrowed and very thick (up to 3 ft). Their wood is soft and brittle and typically splinters upon falling, but because of the high tannin content are resistant to wood rot.
The monoecious seed cones of the Big Trees are long and remain green for up 20 to years, spilling their seed only when the cone dries because of fire or is damaged because of Phymatodes nitidus, a long-horned wood-boring beetle or the Mountain Chickadee (Poecile gambeli) or Douglas Squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasi). Trees must be upwards of 10 years old before they bear cones.
There’s a lot of history related to the early abuse and misuse of the Giant Sequoia, in case you want to read more.