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The Biggest Living Single Being On Earth

October 3, 2014 @ 7:26 pm
posted by Dr Ginther

The “General Sherman” Giant Sequoia tree is the largest living tree, and the largest single living organism on earth.  275 feet tall, with a footprint 36 feet in diameter at ground level, and an estimated trunk volume of 52,500 cubic feet.  Wow.

We were awed by the immense size of this and other trees nearly as large.  Photos cannot properly picture these giants.  You have to experience them in person. Even then they are difficult to comprehend.  Their cousins, the Coastal Redwoods are taller, but nowhere near as wide.

We saw the giant sequoias last week when we went to our son’s wedding just 4 miles from the Mariposa Grove of giants in Yosemite National Park.  The biggest are in Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Parks.  I had not been there before.  I am overwhelmed to have seen them now.

Humans caused serious harm to these trees by supressing natural lightning strike fires from the 1850s to 1970s.  The undergrowth began to choke the giants and prevented new seedlings from growing.  Although the most striking characteristic of these trees is huge fire scars 50 to 75 feet tall, they require fire to supress competition for water and nutrients. 

Studying the growth rings of fallen trees reveals that they grow the fastest in the years just after fire scars.  And those fire scars are every 5 to 13 years over the centuries before European settlement. 

Wandering through the forest in the company of these giants (some over 3000 years old) is truly a trip to the Blue Zones.

Yosemite Valley is incredible.  Kings Canyon is 1/3 deeper than the Grand Canyon.  So much to see of the natural world.

Jay Ginther, MD

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