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Life Cycle of A Giant Sequoia

A giant sequoia tree goes through a life cycle like any other plant. It first starts out as a seed from a cone which sprouts, or 'germinates.' The seed grows into a seedling, then after many, many years, into a mature tree. Often, after the sequoia dies, other plants in the redwood forest start to grow on the dead tree. In this section of the tour, you will learn more the sequoia life cycle.
Click on any photo to see an enlargement.

The Cone

sequoia coneAll giant sequoia trees have cones. The tree starts growing cones when it is ten years old. There are male cones and female cones. The female cones are the ones that make the seeds. Look at this photo closely. The cone from a giant sequoia is very small compared to a grown tree. In fact, it is only about the size of a chicken egg! The seeds are even smaller. Each seed is only the size of a flake of oatmeal.

In the spring, when conditions are right, the seeds germinate, or grow. By the fall, the young sequoia tree is only one or two inches tall.



Young Sequoia Trees

Young sequoias trees are called seedlings. Seedlings can grow well only where there are not many other trees and plants growing. That way, they do not have to share the water and soil with the other plants. Only a few sequoia seedlings grow into trees. Some are eaten by animals, and others don't get enough sunlight or water.

sequoia seedlingsHere are some seedlings that have found a good place to grow. Notice the shape of the young trees. Sequoias look like upside-down ice-cream cones for the first 250 years of their life. They are still considered young after all that time!



Mature Trees

 mature treeGiant sequoias reach full height when they are between 500 and 750 years old. Can you imagine living that long? They can grow to be around 250 feet tall and 30 feet wide. They are the largest living trees in the world! Because they grow so tall, sequoias grow bigger branches and thicker trunks to help them keep their balance.

You can tell if a giant sequoia is mature if the top of the tree looks rounded, like this one. Also, most of the low branches break off and fall to the ground, so the trunks are bare for 100 to 150 feet or more.



Death of a Sequoia

dogwood on fallen treeMany old giant sequoias die after they fall to the earth in powerful storms. The trunk of a dead sequoia tree might lie on the forest floor for hundreds of years. Although the tree is dead, the trunk is teeming with life! Many animals, including mice, birds, and squirrels make their homes in the fallen tree. Seeds from other plants in the forest start to grow on the trunk because the dead wood has many vitamins that help young plants grow. Here is a young dogwood tree growing on a fallen sequoia trunk. Soon, the tree will be part of the soil of the forest floor.



Continue the tour!



Parts of a Giant Sequoia Tree

Fire Resistance

Other Plants of the Giant Sequoia Forest


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