Friday, November 9

Big Trees

Here is Wawona, one of the most famous in the Northern California grove not far from the Orenstein family cabin, which Katie is doing a wonderful job managing. This photo is from 1953.

As for the Mighty Tree: sierras are the largest in the world and many redwoods grow to 250 feet or more - the tallest being about 325 feet high. While their height is impressive, the real wonder of a sierra redwood lies in its bulk. Many of these giants have diameters in excess of 30 feet near the ground, with a corresponding circumference of over 94 feet. The largest redwood in our Calaveras Big Trees State Park is the Louis Agassiz tree located in the South Grove. The tree is "only" 250 feet tall, but it is over 25 feet in diameter six feet above the ground. The largest tree in the world BTW is the General Grant tree, located in Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park It stands 271 feet tall and is 28 feet in diameter at six feet above the ground.

Most trees have their diameter measured at breast height, which is considered to be four and a half feet above the ground on the uphill side of the tree. Sierra redwoods however, are measured at six feet above the ground. This is because of the major increase in circumference at the lower end of the tree. This "butt swell" helps the redwood in a couple ways. It adds stability to the tree, just as a wide stance adds stability to a football player. Also, it helps deflect falling vegetation away from the base of the tree. This decreases the chances of the redwood being injured by fire when that debris eventually burns. It is difficult to imagine the size of a sierra redwood. You often read or hear stories like the fact that a sierra redwood may contain enough wood to build 40 five-room homes; a tree may weigh 4,000 tons; they are as tall as the Statue of Liberty.