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Parts of A Giant Sequoia Tree

All giant sequoia trees have three major parts: roots, a trunk and leaves. Other important parts of a tree are the bark and burls. In this section of the tour, you will learn about these parts and how they all work together to help keep the tree alive and healthy.

Click on any photo to see an enlargement.

The Roots

fallen tree rootsHere are the roots of a giant sequoia that fell and died. Roots are the part of the tree that grow underground and take water and nutrients from the soil. Notice how shallow, or short, the roots are. The roots only reach six to eight feet straight down, which is not very far for such a large tree. Instead, the roots grow sideways under the surface of the soil. This means that the roots can drink water from the ground even if it rains only a little bit. Sequoias get most of their water from melted snow.


The Trunk

large trunkIn the distance you can see a platform where people are standing. Look more closely - the platform is actually the sawed-off trunk of a giant sequoia tree! Try to imagine how large this tree must have been before it was cut down in the year 1853. People in those days had never seen a giant sequoia, and were so excited about the trees that they stripped the bark off this one and cut it down. They took the parts of the tree to different cities, where they put it back together to make it look like a live tree. They wanted to share the tree with people who had never seen a giant sequoia. In the park, they used to use base of the trunk as a dance floor. What do you think about doing something like that today?


cross section of trunkHere is part of the trunk of the same tree in the background. It is lying on its side and you are looking at the cross section. Look at the man standing on the right side. Can you get an idea of how large across the trunk is?


spiral growthLook closely at this tree. Do you notice anything about the pattern in its trunk? The trunk is growing in a spiral or twisting pattern. The spiral growth allows the tree to be more flexible. This means that the tree won't fall down in a strong wind or heavy snowstorm as easily as a tree that has a straight trunk. This is one way that giant sequoias are adapted to their environment.


The Leaves

The leaves on a giant sequoia tree are short and prickly.They overlap each other and help protect the tree. The leaves on a plant are green because they have chlorophyll (KLOR-uh-fihl) in them. Chlorophyll is what makes food out of sunlight for the plant. The giant sequoia leaves do this same thing for the tree.


The Bark

bark of giant sequoiaTake closer look at the bark of this giant sequoia. Bark is the outer layer of wood on a tree. The bark of sequoia trees are very spongy, soft, and thick. The bark on a giant sequoia tree can grow to be two feet thick! This helps to protect the sequoia from very hot summer days or very cold winter days. This is another way that giant sequoias are adapted to their environment.

Animals of the forest have learned to use the bark from giant sequoias. Tree squirrels and birds tear off small strips of the bark to use in their nests. Ants chew tunnels in the bark to make shelter for their young.



The Burls

burlsDo you see the large growths or bumps on the trunk of this giant sequoia? They are called 'burls.' The giant sequoia tree grows these burls in response to disease or injury. The burls usually form at the base of the tree.



Continue the tour!



Life Cycle of A Giant Sequoia

Fire Resistance

Other Plants of the Giant Sequoia Forest


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