Giant Sequoia Seeds Are Not Giant

Giant sequoia cone opening and dropping seeds
While pausing in the shade of a tall, red-barked Giant sequoia in downtown Victoria, I stooped to pick up a small cone from the grass. I marveled that these trees are here at all, since they are native to only a small area of California along the coast. But growing conditions on southern Vancouver Island favour these amazing trees, and Victoria has many excellent examples spread about town.

General Sherman, Giant sequoia,
largest tree on earth

The sequoia is the largest tree species in the world, but there is nothing giant about their cones - sequoia cones are only 4-7 cm long, and the seeds that fall out of them are tiny.

The seed is dark brown, 4-5 mm long and 1 mm broad, with a 1 mm wide yellow-brown wing along each side. So small is this little packet of potential that it barely covers the head of the loon on the loony (Canadian one dollar coin).

The cones mature in 18-20 months, though they typically remain green and closed for up to 20 years; each cone has 30-50 spirally arranged scales, with several seeds on each scale giving an average of 230 seeds per cone. When the cones mature they turn brown, and before they open they look like little turds.

Some seed is shed when the cone scales open during hot weather in late summer. Seeds are also dispersed when the cone dries out from fire and/or insect damage.

Giant sequoia along Gorge Road, Victoria
Giant Sequoia is a very popular ornamental tree in many areas, including western and southern Europe, the Pacific Northwest to southwest British Columbia, southeast Australia, New Zealand and central-southern Chile. It is also grown, though less successfully, in parts of eastern North America.

Giant sequoia grow to an average height of 50-85 m (150-280 ft) and 5-7 m (16-23 ft) in diameter, so don't plant them too close to your house. Record trees have reached 93.6 m (307 ft) in height, and 8.85 m (29 ft) in diameter. The oldest known Giant Sequoia based on ring count is 3,200 years old.

The oldest sequoia in the Victoria region, brought north as saplings by early settlers from California, is probably not even 200 years old. But that does not mean that they are not big. Image what they will be like if they are allowed to live another 3000 years.
Find out more about viewing Giant sequoia in the Victoria area here.


  1. Anonymous2/4/12

    if one had a lot of land, could they start thier own giant sequoia forest? joe.crowder@ymail.com

    1. Anonymous5/6/14

      Once they stay patient for many years, it takes long time for a tree to grow mature.


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