This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V21", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
There is much nonsense afloat about the big trees of California, and Prof. Brewer writes to the New England Journal of Education to enlighten some people as to the real facts. He says :- "The first error relates to their height,the second to their age.
If only the truth be told, they still remain the grandest trees on earth, and one of the wonders of the world. Some of the Australian Eucalyptus trees exceed them in the matter of heigth, yet, take them all in all and as they are, the giant Sequoias are the greater. Your correspondent tells of "The Father of the Forest" being "about four hundred and fifty feet high when in his glory," as if this was a proved fact rather than a vague guess. The fact is that no one knows how high it was, for, when the grove was first discovered by white men, the prostrate tree was already partly rotten and the whole top burned away; and accounts published twenty-four years ago speak of the tree as perhaps over four hundred feet high when living.
The State Geological Survey carefully measured all the higher standing trees in this grove, in the Mariposa grove, and some of the trees in the other groves, and published the result years ago. In the Calaveras grove there were then twenty-seven trees of two hundred and fifty or more feet, four of which were three hundred or more feet, the highest being three hundred and twenty-five feet. Over three hundred trees were measured in Mariposa grove, the tallest of which was two hundred and seventy-two feet. The only other tree I have seen which rivals "The Father of the Forest" in diameter is in the King's river grove, and was less than three hundred feet high. There is no evidence that "The Father of the Forest" (or any other Sequoia) ever reached three hundred and fifty feet, and what its height actually was can never be known.
Next as to age. The first extended description, published in Europe twenty-five years ago, "estimated" the age at several thousand years, and gave wings to the imagination as to the events in the world's history which the old trees had seen in their life-time. This error has been refuted from year to year, for I know not how long, for every scientific investigation has shown its fallacy, but the first story was so well told, and seemed so marvelous, that it is repeated by the majority of "correspondents" in some form, and I am sorry to say that clergymen and teachers are not the least common offenders. It is so much easier to repeat a startling story than it is to test its accuracy, that it is probable future generations of correspondents in 1978 will continue to tell how large this or that tree was "when Paris carried Helen from the walls of Troy." And so your correspondent speaks of one still standing as "a tree that began its growth long before David reigned in Israel!"
We know the actual age of only one of the larger trees of the Calaveras grove, and that is the tree your correspondent tells us of as having been felled in 1853. That tree was sound to its centre, and we know its age to within a very few years, and it began its growth more than twenty-five hundred years after David died. It is possible that some of the oldest trees of this species may have begun their growth over two thousand years ago, but not at all probable that any reached back to within a thousand years of the time of David".