The Redwoods in Prehistory

Giant sequoias near Long Meg and her Daughters
Giant sequoias near Long Meg and her Daughters

One of the things I enjoy when I’m in England is playing “spot the redwood tree.” It’s really pretty easy. I once read that if you ascend any church steeple in England and scan the horizon, the tallest tree is likely to be a Sequoia wellingtoniagiant sequoia as we know them in the states.

While I have not been up a church steeple in many years, barely a day goes by when I’m in England that I don’t spot at least one towering giant sequoia. Now these are not the thousand-year-old monarchs you find in California’s great sequoia parks, but many are decent-sized trees that are pushing into their second century. I have a run I like to do from my parents’ house in northern England that passes a beautiful specimen by a Victorian house. I always stop to say hello.

But the most interesting sighting this time was of two decent-sized sequoias in a small copse by Long Meg and her Daughters. Long Meg is an ancient standing stone, and her daughters are ancient stones in a circle. William Wordsworth described them as second only to Stonehenge. They are in open country with views of the Lakeland Fells (high, barren fields) and Pennines mountains in the distance. Even today it feels like a power spot with deep roots.

Close up of Long Meg and her Daughters
Close up of Long Meg and her Daughters

The stones probably date from about 1500 BC. That had me thinking. They have been there for about 3,500 years. It’s an unfathomable stretch of time, unless you are a giant sequoia! We really don’t know how old these giants can get (although our Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative is starting to give insights into this), but it is estimated that they can approach 3,500 years (for instance the Muir Snag in the Converse Basin Grove is believed to be this old). In Britain, these stretches of time are considered pre-history. In California, they are represented in giant sequoias. And just perhaps, in another 3,500 years, these now young trees near these ancient stones will be ancient giants with amazing stories to tell.

Do you have a favorite redwood tree? Perhaps one that is outside the natural range of redwoods, maybe even one you have planted. Share your stories and photos with us here, or help us by loading their location into our Redwood Watch program so we can better understand where these remarkable trees grow today. Thank you!

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About Ruskin Hartley

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