More than 2,000 years ago, a seed the size of an oatmeal flake began to sprout in the mountains now known as the Sierra Nevada. The seedling grew through a forest canopy and eventually reached 275 feet, the height of a 27-story building, with a trunk wider than a three-lane highway. Today, the giant sequoia called the General Sherman reigns as the world’s largest tree.
Though not the tallest or widest tree, the General ranks as largest based on the volume of its trunk—52,508 cubic feet, enough wood to make a two-foot-wide path of inch-thick planks 60 miles long.
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In 1879, naturalist and Civil War veteran James Wolverton named the tree after his former commander, William Tecumseh ("War is hell") Sherman.
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Other massive sequoias thriving at altitudes around 6,900 feet in the Giant Forest include the President, Lincoln, and Franklin, the world’s fourth, fifth, and ninth largest trees respectively.
The tree weighs roughly 1,385 tons, or about as much as nine adult blue whales.
Every year the General produces new wood equivalent to that of a tree 50 feet tall and one foot in diameter.
Photography by Sunny Photography.com/Alamy
This article was first published in May 2009. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.
The General Sherman stands in the Giant Forest of Sequoia National Park, off Highway 198 east of Visalia, Calif. The park is open year-round; phone ahead for road conditions. (559) 565-3341, www.nps.gov/seki .