If you are planning to travel to California in the near future, we strongly recommend that you place this destination « at the top » of your list of things to see. If you go to the giant forest of the Sequoia National Park, you will meet « General Sherman », the most imposing tree in California, and even the world.
Let’s take a quick look at some figures to give you an idea of the size of this specimen. Already, it is a giant sequoia, so naturally large.
It is not the largest but the most imposing. It is about 84 meters high and the diameter of its base is about 11 meters wide. In terms of volume, its trunk has a volume of about 1487 cubic metres, with an additional 283 cubic metres for its branches. This thing is monstrous. Oh, we forgot to tell you how old it is; it’s old, very very old, about 2,200 years old!
Other big trees
Somehow the jury has not yet been able to agree on the world’s tallest trees. But it seems that General Sherman is the tallest. But there are other large specimens in other California parks. One is called the President, the other is called General Grant. These trees are all of the giant redwood species.
Experts say that there was a bigger tree, about 15 to 20% bigger than General Sherman to be more precise, but unfortunately it was cut down in the 1940s. There used to be another giant tree, also in California, which some experts say was larger than General Sherman, but it was felled during a storm in 1905. When this happened, the Humbolt Times-Standard reported it, but no one measured it before its wood was used, so we can’t be sure.
A bit of history
General Sherman received his name in 1879 from naturalist James Wolverton. Wolverton had served under General William Tecumseh Sherman (the real person) in a cavalry unit.
James Wolverton gave him his name to honour him. About ten years later, the area where the tree is located came under the control of the Kaweah Colony. They were, more or less, hard-line socialists, so they decided to rename the tree in honour of Karl Marx (what a surprise). Only shortly afterwards, the association was dissolved and the tree took back its original name.
Today, General Sherman (the tree, not the person) sits majestically in the centre of the National Park and has become a destination of choice for tourists and other nature enthusiasts.
One problem however, which is not really important in the scheme of things, is that General Sherman, and other trees like him, are so big that it is not easy to photograph them! Usually we see some sort of base shot, or a shot that looks up from the base. It is interesting to note that some naturalists have undertaken a project to photograph the President, the second largest tree in the park. It took them 126 shots, but they managed to get a complete picture of the whole tree.