Sequoia, the botanical name of a genus of large coniferous evergreen trees, consisting of but two species, both of which are natives of our Pacific coast. The name was imposed by Endlicher, who left its derivation unexplained, but it has since been maintained that it was given in honor of the Cherokee Sequoyah or George Guess. (See Guess.) The species first made known was the redwood of the Cali-fornians, 8. sempervirens, which was discovered by Menzies in 1796, and from imperfect specimens was referred to taxodium, the genus of our deciduous cypress. Endlicher found that it did not belong to the cypress subfamily, but that its affinities were with the pines and cedars; its awl-shaped or linear leaves are scattered, or somewhat two-rowed; its flowers monoecious, terminal and solitary; sterile aments globular, on slender stalks; the cones oval or globular with woody shield-shaped scales, beneath each of which are three to seven winged seeds. The redwood has leaves half an inch to an inch long, two-rowed, flat, dark shining green above and glaucous beneath; as is the case with many other conifers, the leaves of the redwood are quite unlike in the young tree, where they are spreading, to those on the older trees, where they are closely ap-pressed. The cones are an inch or more long, roundish, with thick roughish scales, each of which has a strong obtuse point.
The tree is found from the boundary of Mexico northward, its northern limits being not well ascertained, and never very far from the coast; upon the Coast range of mountains it often forms forests to the exclusion of all other timber. It sometimes reaches a diameter of 15 ft. and a height of 300 ft.; 1,008 annual rings have been counted upon a slab taken from a tree 15 ft. through. The redwood has been of more value to the settlers in California than perhaps any other tree, the forests being near the ocean, though in many cases they have been found so inaccessible that it was cheaper to purchase lumber brought from Oregon than to transport redwood from the rugged hills only a few miles distant; the timber is light and close-grained, but not very strong; it much resembles in appearance that of the red cedar, but is darker; it splits with remarkable facility, and in some localities has been largely used for fencing; it may be made into planks and boards without the use of a saw; being eminently durable, and not attacked by insects, it is used for building purposes and for cabinet work; it is said to dry without shrinking. - The second and only other species of sequoia is S. gigantea (Torrey), popularly known as the "great tree of California," and the "mammoth tree," and the groves of which are generally called "the big trees." This species was first discovered by some miners, who in prospecting came upon what is now known as the Calaveras group; afterward the Mariposa and Fresno groups were discovered, and later Prof. William H. Brewer made known the existence of extensive forests of the tree along the western flanks of the Sierra Nevada. The California botanists early secured specimens of the tree and forwarded them to Drs. Torrey and Gray, proposing, should it prove to be a new genus, to call it Washingtonia; the specimens were lost upon the way; about the same time an English collector, Mr. Lobb, sent incomplete materials to England, and Lindley named it as a new genus, Wellingtonia. In 1855 Dr. Torrey received very complete materials, and found that the tree belonged to the already established genus sequoia, and published it as S. gigantea.
The English still retain Wellingtonia as their name for the tree, and some of their leading botanists, while admitting that the tree is sequoia, so far ignore the rules of nomenclature as to call it S. Wellingtonia. Books of California travel have made the trees of this species well known, and until the recent discovery of Australian eucalypti as large if not larger, they were regarded as the most gigantic of vegetable productions; 30 ft. is not an unusual diameter, and some have measured 33 and 36 ft., and with their buttresses even more in diameter, and their heights are estimated at 275 to 450 ft. A striking peculiarity of these trees is the disproportion between the expanse of the foliage and the size of the trunk. It is now known that the trees grow with astonishing rapidity when young, but after they have reached their maturity (something over 1,000 years) they make but little growth. The bark, often 15 in. thick, is of a brown or cinnamon color, and the wood is similar to that of the redwood; when oiled and exposed to the light it becomes of a very deep mahogany color. This species differs from the redwood in its shorter leaves of a light glaucous green, and its larger ovate cones, the scales of which have each a slender prickle.
The cultivation of both species has been tried in the eastern states, but without encouraging success; specimens that gave great promise have one after another succumbed either to severe winters or to mildew, and they have both failed entirely, at least north of Virginia. In England they flourish remarkably well, and S. gigantea has made a growth remarkable for any tree, and especially rapid for a conifer, and it will probably prove important for planting in forests. (See California, vol. iii., p. 606).
Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens). Male and Female Flowers.
Mammoth Tree (Sequoia gigantea). Leaves reduced, with three of natural size; cone and section, half size.
Group of Mammoth Trees.