These are some of the world’s largest trees, rising majestically out of the snowy slopes along the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
Photographer Michael Nichols spent two weeks capturing images of the ‘President’ – the world’s second-biggest tree which is at least 3,200 years old in Sequoia National Park, deep in the southern region.
Sequoias only grow on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada, a mountain range which runs 400 miles through Nevada and California. Giant sequoias can reach 247-feet – the height of a 20-storey building.
‘Recent research by scientist Steve Sillett of Humboldt State University and his colleagues has confirmed that the President ranks number two among all big trees that have ever been measured—and Sillett’s team has measured quite a few.
It doesn’t stand so tall as the tallest of coast redwoods or of Eucalyptus regnans in Australia, but height isn’t everything; it’s far more massive than any coast redwood or eucalypt.
‘Its dead spire, blasted by lightning, rises to 247 feet. Its four great limbs, each as big as a sizable tree, elbow outward from the trunk around halfway up, billowing into a thick crown like a mushroom cloud flattening against the sky.
‘Although its trunk isn’t quite so bulky as that of the largest giant, the General Sherman, its crown is fuller than the Sherman’s. The President holds nearly two billion leaves.
‘Trees grow tall and wide-crowned as a measure of competition with other trees, racing upward, reaching outward for sunlight and water.
And a tree doesn’t stop getting larger—as a terrestrial mammal does, or a bird, their size constrained by gravity—once it’s sexually mature. A tree too is constrained by gravity, but not in the same way as a condor or a giraffe.
‘It doesn’t need to locomote, and it fortifies its structure by continually adding more wood.
Given the constant imperative of seeking resources from the sky and the soil, and with sufficient time, a tree can become huge and then keep growing. Giant sequoias are gigantic because they are very, very old.’
Immense: The tallest sequoias are so large that it is impossible to look at them in one go
The ‘rusty red’ tree has a footprint as large as a room in an average home, and is so huge that it is almost impossible to look at.
Their giant size allows them to survive disasters which would wipe out many of their woodland competitors – they are unaffected by storms, resistant to forest fire and can live even after being struck by lightning.
And the trees never stop growing even when they are hundreds of feet tall – in fact, their rate of growth has been found to increase the older they are.
The trunk is constantly widening, while the upper limbs grow stronger even as the trees age.
Steve Sillett and his helpers proved this unexpected finding by climbing up the biggest trees and measuring them more thoroughly than had ever been done before.