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Mammoth Tree Sequoiadendron giganteum

Phonetic Spelling
se-KWOY-a-DEN-dron ji-GAN-te-um
Description

The giant redwood can grow 250 to 300' in the wild and is among the most massive trees in the world. Its trunk diameter ranges from 15-20'.  These long-lived trees have a lifespan of 2000 to 3000 years.  They can be found growing on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California.  When planted in the correct climate outside its native habitat, success is possible, but heights may only reach 40-60'.  When young, trees will have a pyramidal shape.  As they age, they keep the same shape but will lose their lower branches.

This giant conifer, evergreen is a member of the Cupressaceae family. The genus name, Sequoia, is in honor of the Native American Cherokee Chief Sequoyah. The other part of the genus name, dendron, means "tree." The epithet, giganteum, means "gigantic".

They are best located in cool, moist climates with consistent moisture.  They will grow in sandy loam-type soil with a consistent temperature range.  It will not tolerate drastic climate changes or clay soil. 

The bark is reddish-brown, spongy, ridged, furrowed, and textured (cork-like).

These unique giants are protected in national parks such as Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon. The largest known living tree is a giant redwood known as General Sherman which is located in Sequoia National Park.

Forest fires are a high risk for seedlings and saplings.  As the tree ages, its rapid growth, fire-resistant bark, elevated canopies, and self-pruned lower branches place mature trees at a much lower risk of being killed by fire.  

The giant redwood requires a large space and the correct climate. They are attractive in large gardens.

Seasons of Interest:

Bark: Year-round    Foliage:  Year-round   Fruits:  Summer

Quick ID Hints:

  • conifer, evergreen, growing 100 feet to 300 feet tall
  • bark reddish-brown, spongy, fibrous, and furrowed
  • stems with scale-like leaves that eventually fall off, and the stem is reddish-brown with scaly bark
  • leaves blue-green, small, scale-like, sharply pointed, or awl-shaped on like branches
  • cone buds form late summer and the following summer they are full-size
  • cones are oval, woody, brown, and about 2 inches long and 1 inch wide when mature

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: This tree is usually pest free, but it is important to monitor for honey fungus.  Dieback, blight, and butt rot are minor diseases that may be present. Giant redwoods planted outside of their native range tend to be more susceptible to insect and disease damage. 

VIDEO created by Ryan Contreras for “Landscape Plant Materials I:  Deciduous Hardwoods and Conifers or Landscape Plant Materials II:  Spring Flowering Trees and Shrubs” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Hazel Smith'
    Bluish needles, more hardy.
  • 'Pendulum'
    Erratic leading stem (zig-zag)
  • 'Powder Blue'
    Blue foliage
'Hazel Smith', 'Pendulum', 'Powder Blue'
Tags:
#evergreen#large tree#pyramidal#conifer#shelter for wildlife#winter interest#food source wildlife#needled evergreen#large spaces#non-flowering#evergreen tree#meadows#dry soils intolerant#clay soils intolerant#erect#bark#full sun#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Hazel Smith'
    Bluish needles, more hardy.
  • 'Pendulum'
    Erratic leading stem (zig-zag)
  • 'Powder Blue'
    Blue foliage
'Hazel Smith', 'Pendulum', 'Powder Blue'
Tags:
#evergreen#large tree#pyramidal#conifer#shelter for wildlife#winter interest#food source wildlife#needled evergreen#large spaces#non-flowering#evergreen tree#meadows#dry soils intolerant#clay soils intolerant#erect#bark#full sun#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Sequoiadendron
    Species:
    giaganteum
    Family:
    Cupressaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Root Cutting
    Seed
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    California, Sierra Nevada Mountains
    Distribution:
    California
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    The tree is a source of shelter for wildlife. Mature cones are collected by squirrels, and the seeds are eaten by chipmunks, sparrows, and finches.
    Play Value:
    Textural
    Wildlife Cover/Habitat
    Wildlife Food Source
    Dimensions:
    Height: 60 ft. 0 in. - 275 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 25 ft. 0 in. - 60 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Needled Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Columnar
    Erect
    Oval
    Pyramidal
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Soil Texture:
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    more than 60 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Long-lasting
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Summer
    Fruit Length:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Width:
    1-3 inches
    Fruit Description:
    Male and female cone buds form in the late summer. They are pollinated from mid-April to mid-May. Fertilization occurs in August and by that time the cones are full-size. The cones are oval, woody, green to reddish-brown, and about 2 inches long and 1-inch wide. Seed cones mature and open in 2 years. They are persistent for up to 20 years. The cones have 30 to 50 spirally arranged scales. There are several seeds inside each scale. The seeds are dark brown and about 0.2 inches long with a yellowish-brown wing on each side. Some seeds are released as the cone shrinks in hot weather. Most of the seeds are released when the cones dry or are damaged by insects.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Description:
    Non-flowering
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Needled Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Blue
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Prickly
    Leaf Type:
    Needles
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    The bluish-green needles are scale-like to awl-shaped, triangular in cross-section, and point upwards. They range in size from 1/8-1/2" in length.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Brown
    Red/Burgundy
    Surface/Attachment:
    Furrowed
    Ridges
    Spongy
    Bark Description:
    The bark is reddish-brown, spongy, fibrous, thick, and deeply furrowed.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    The stems are covered with scale-like leaves. As they age, the leaves fall off, and the stems appear reddish-brown with scaly bark.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Meadow
    Naturalized Area
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Shade Tree
    Specimen
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Fire