Substances & Homeopatic Remedies

Sequoia sempervirens

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Sequoia sempervirens


The name 'Sequoia' is derived from Sequoiah, the inventor of the Cherokee alphabet. 'Sempervirens' means 'always green'.
Unfortunately, Endlicher's writings give no clue to the etymology of Sequoia, and some very eminent botanists have proposed plausible alternatives. Asa Gray, for instance, thought it came from the Latin sequi, 'following', since it is the sole living representative of a sizable group of extinct plants (Hartesveldt et al. 1975).c.1766–1843, Native North American leader, creator of the Cherokee syllabary, b. Loudon co., Tenn. Although many historians believe that he was the son of a Cherokee woman and a white trader named Nathaniel Gist, his descendants dispute this claim. To most Americans he was known as George Guess; to the Cherokee he was known as Sogwali. The name Sequoyah was given to him by missionaries. A silversmith and a trader in the Cherokee country in Georgia, he set out to create a system for reducing the Cherokee language to writing, and he compiled a table of 85 characters; he took some letters from an English spelling book and by inversion, modification, and invention adopted the symbols to Cherokee sounds. There is some dispute as to when the syllabary was completed. Many historians date its completion at about 1821; Cherokee tradition holds that it was created much earlier and was actually in use as early as the late 18th cent. In 1822, Sequoyah visited the Cherokee in Arkansas, and soon he taught thousands of the Native Americans to read and write. He moved with them to present-day Oklahoma. Parts of the Bible were soon printed in Cherokee, and in 1828 a weekly newspaper was begun. His remarkable achievement helped to unite the Cherokee and make them leaders among other Native Americans. The giant tree, sequoia sequoia (sikwoi`?), name for the redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) and for the big tree, or giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum), both huge, coniferous evergreen trees of the bald cypress family, and for extinct related species. Sequoias probably originated over 100 million years ago. Once widespread in temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, the trees were almost exterminated by the ice sheets of the glacial ages. Several species are known only by fossil remains; some such fossils have been found in the Petrified Forest in Arizona.


Traditional name

Used parts



Plantae; Spermatophyta, Gymnospermae; Coniferopsida - Conifers; Coniferales; Taxodiaceae


Original proving

Proved by Kate Birch and Jennifer Rockwell in 1994 on 11 persons [7 men, 4 women].

Description of the substance

An Honorable Name *
The "Sequoia" part of Seqouia sempervirens and Sequoiadendron gigantea is in honor of the great Cherokee patriarch of the Cherokee written language, Sequoia. Several other names were used prior to settling on this most appropriate one. Other early names were "Wellingtonea" in honor of the Duke of Wellington and the very patriotic "Americus".
Survival Strategies
Redwoods have some of the most varied and intricate survival strategies going.  

The bark of a coastal redwood is very thick, as much as a foot in places. And it exhibits an unusual property when exposed to fire- it chars into a heat shield. It actually turns into a pretty effective abalative, similiar to the way a heat shield on a re-entry vehicle works.

And redwood is very resistant to water associated rot. It is not uncommon to drill a well in a creek bed in this area and end up drilling right through a redwood log that may have been buried there for thousands of years. The wood comes out of the pipe sound and in good shape.
Proliferation Strategies
A live redwood that gets knocked over will attempt to continue growing via its limbs. If undisturbed, the limbs pointing up will turn into trees in their own right, and this is indeed the source of many row groups of trees.  

Cathedral or family groups of trees are simply trees that have grown up from the living remains of the stump of a fallen redwood, and since they grew out of the perimeter, they are organized in a circle. If you looked at the genetic information in a cell of each of these trees, you would find that they were identical to each other and to the stump they sprang from. They are clones!  

The redwood burls are another survival strategy. Their growth is held in check by the presence of chemical signals in a living redwood. If the tree should die, or even be stressed, say by low rainfall or fire, the chemical signal weakens or vanishes and the burl will burst forth into verdant life. Burls kept in a shallow pan of water will grow almost indefinitely. They can also continue on to become a full grown redwood tree. At the very least, if watered they will produce a lovely fringe of green pseudo branchs and make a very interesting looking and unusual house plant.  

Lastly, there is the conventional sexual reproduction system of seeds. About 20% of today's present trees sprang from seeds. The rest came from one of the various cloning-based proliferation strategies. Genetically, it's the same tree after each successive cloning process. 80% of the trees now growing were produced in one these cloning processes. If you connect these two facts, you will come to realize that some of those trees out there could be the last in a 20,000 or 30,000 year (or more) line of the SAME tree reproducing itself over and over again! Genetically, they are the same tree that grew from a seed all those centuries ago! Would it be proper to place the age of one of these trees as the true age of its unchanged genetic material? I don't know, but these amazing trees are truly ever-living.

    The earliest known Sequoia (S. jeholensis) comes from the Jurassic, and is known only from fossil leafy imprints (Miller 1977). These closely resemble the modern S. sempervirens and may be an early relative. There is no consensus as to the location of the origin of the Sequoia's, but is believed to be either the arctic islands or west-central North America (Snyder 1992). The fossil record is not clear. By the end of the Cretaceous, 65 million years ago, however, S. sempervirens is known to have existed and been fairly widespread (Snyder 1992).
   S. sempervirens belongs to the Taxodiaceae, or deciduous cypress, family, which has 15 species, distributed among 10 genera. None of the species are found on more than one continent, which has lead Miller (1977) to conclude that they are all modern representatives of "long lines of specialization," and may be relicts of more abundant groups in the past (p. 250). Though the coast redwood and the giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) are closest geographically, it is believed that the coast and dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), found in China, are closer genetically (Snyder 1992).


Tree to 60-100(110) m tall and 300-460(900) cm dbh. Trunk much enlarged and buttressed at the base and often with rounded swellings or burls, slightly tapering. Crown crown conic and monopodial when young, narrowed conic in age, irregular and open. Bark red-brown, to ca. 35 cm thick, tough and fibrous, deeply furrowed into broad, scaly ridges; inner bark cinnamon-brown. Branches downward sweeping to slightly ascending. Twigs slender, dark green, forking in a plane, ending in a scaly bud. Leaves 1-30 mm, generally with stomates on both surfaces, the free portion to 30 mm, those on leaders, ascending branchlets, and fertile shoots divergent to strongly appressed, short-lanceolate to deltate, those on horizontally spreading to drooping branchlets mostly linear to linear-lanceolate, divergent and in 2 ranks, with 2 prominent, white abaxial stomatal bands. Pollen cones nearly globose to ovoid, 2-5 mm, borne singly on short terminal or axillary stalks. Female cones 12-35 mm long, elliptical, reddish-brown, with many flat, short-pointed scales; pendant at end of leafy twig; maturing in one season; with 2-5 seeds per scale, light brown, 2-winged. Seeds flattened, 3-6 mm, leathery. 2n= 66.

The genus Sequoia has been described as follows: "Trees giant, evergreen. Branchlets terete, with obvious annual growth constrictions. Leaves alternate, mostly in 2 ranks. Adult leaves linear or linear-lanceolate to deltate, generally flattened, divergent to strongly appressed; abaxial glands absent. Pollen cones with 6-12 sporophylls, each sporophyll with 2-6 pollen sacs. Seed cones maturing and opening in 1 season, oblong to globose; scales persistent, 15-30, valvate, ± peltate, thick and woody. Seeds 2-7 per scale, lenticular, narrowly 2-winged; cotyledons 2(-4). x = 11"

Big Tree
The largest volume tree is the Del Norte Titan, discovered June 1998 in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, California, by Steve Sillett and Michael Taylor. This tree has an estimated stem volume of 1044.7 cubic meters and is 93.57 m tall with a dbh of 7.22 m
The coast redwood is probably the tallest tree on earth, although one occasionally hears of extraordinarily tall eucalypts in Western Australia, and during historical times there have been Douglas-firs (Pseudotsuga menziesii) known to be taller than any coast redwoods now living. However, it is quite likely that the tallest coast redwoods were early victims of the axe, so it is difficult to say if the redwoods was the tallest of conifers during early historical time. The following table, for which most data were provided by Michael Taylor, provides summary information on all coast redwoods known to be over 110 meters tall, as measured by direct tape drop or Criterion 400 laser surveyor.

A ring-counted age of 2200 years for a specimen from N California collected by Fritz. This was probably a stump count. I have a section cut from a log in Humboldt Redwoods State Park that has at least 2026 rings. This specimen has poor circuit uniformity with many missing rings, so it may be as old or older than Fritz' specimen.

A few years ago, dendrochronology suffered a bit of a scandal - or at least, what might pass for a scandal in this peaceful field of study - when a person having no knowledge of the subject represented themselves as an expert to someone at the Guinness Book of World Records, claiming to have found a 12,000 year old redwood tree, which they modestly named the Eternal God Tree. Guinness duly published the claim. Later that year, I was shown the tree and had the opportunity to sample it with an increment borer. The sample produced 515 years and the tree is rotten inside of that. Given the tree's relatively small size (about 3 meters in diameter, which, yes, is "small" in comparison with other trees nearby), I would very much doubt it could be a day over 2,000 years old, and my best guess is about 1,200 years - a tenth of its claimed age. Incidentally, the 2,026-year-old tree described above was assigned an age of 7,000 years by the same person. I only mention this because you may see these fanciful ages of 7,000 and 12,000 years reported in the news media.

The species is well protected in its native range and can easily be seen in California's Redwood National Park, Muir Woods National Monument, and a long chain of State Parks of which some of the more noteworthy are, from north to south, Jedediah Smith Redwoods, Prairie Creek Redwoods, Humboldt Redwoods, and Big Basin Redwoods.

    The oldest known member of the sequoia family is from the Late Jurassic Southern Manchuria, and by the end of the Mesozoic all northern continents had representatives of sequoia species alive today (Snyder 1992). Seqouia sempervirens had reached its northernmost limits during the Paleocene and Eocene, 65 MYA to 38 MYA. It is known to have been on the islands of Svalbard, today part of Norway and well above the Arctic Circle (Snyder 1992). During the Oligocene and Miocene, 38 MYA to 6 MYA, its range had moved south due to cooler and drier climates, and by the Pliocene it had become established in its present location. At this time, it had also disappeared completely from Europe and Asia (Snyder 1992).
Map from Snyder 1992
   The present distribution of Sequoia sempervirens is along a narrow strip of land hugging the Pacific Coast of the United States. It reaches from the southernmost tip of Monterey County in California, and follows a discontinuous line all the way up to the Oregon border.  In fact, Sequoia sempervirens misses out on being an exclusively Californian tree by 14 miles over the Oregon border. On average, the tree is not found more than 20 miles inland, but its furthest inland distribution is roughly 40 miles in Napa County where the climate is still moderated by marine influences. This narrow strip of land is about 500 miles long, and originally contained approximately million acres of old-growth, virgin forest.
   Limiting factors that define redwood distribution are generally climatic, but are also geologic. Sequoia sempervirens does not tolerate extreme conditions of either temperature or precipitation. On average, the temperature of the redwood forest ranges between 47 degrees Fahrenheit in January to 64 degrees in July (McBride and Jacobs, 1977). Temperatures rarely exceed freezing or reach above 100. Precipitation is between 35 - 90" annually with larger amounts of precipitation the further north you go. As it is located in the Mediterranean climatic biome, the redwoods receive the majority of their precipitation in the winter. Further north of the current redwood distribution provides too cold and too wet a climate for successful colonization, and further south the climate is too hot and dry for the trees.
   The summer fog is generally recognized as a limiting (and contributing) factor for redwood distribution, but as McBride and Jacobs (1977) point out, the correlation is not perfect. The fog belt extends way beyond the distribution of the redwoods, reaching down to Baja California and up to Portland, Oregon.         There are several severe gaps in the redwood distribution that cannot be attributable to the fog as well (McBride and Jacobs 1977). Fog, because it occurs primarily in the summertime, does play an important role for some redwoods.  In the southern range of their geography, the fog may be the key factor in keeping redwoods alive. The heat and dryness in the south confines redwoods to canyons and river valleys, where summer fog brings much needed and valued moisture.
   In general, redwoods are confined to soils of serpentine origin (Monroe 1999). Serpentine is a metamorphic rock that began as bits of the earth's mantle. As it weathers, it provides a soil too harsh for some plants, but is ideal for redwoods.
   Barnett (1998) notes that the change of redwood distribution over the past has come from the relationship the tree has with its roots. Or rather, with a symbiotic fungal association found in the roots. This fungus allows the tree to absorb certain nutrients from the soil (Barnett 1998). This type of mycorrhizal, or fungal, association is found in other trees as well, but in redwoods the fungus penetrates the tissues of the roots (Barnett 1998). At the furthest redwood expansion, this fungal association allowed the roots to absorb the nutrients it needed in the high latitude locations. Then, when global climate changed 20 million years ago, redwood distribution began to shrink gradually to its present location. Barnett notes that the fungal association was no longer capable of removing the necessary nutrients from the soil because the soil changed as the climate changed. Plants and trees, such as pines, which have fungal associations that are more superficial and do not penetrate the tissues as deeply were better able to survive the climates and eventually helped push out the redwoods (Barnett 1998). He notes that the distributional success of the redwoods has partly depended upon the fungal associations it has formed.

The genus is widely thought to be named for Sequoyah, also known as George Guess, inventor and publisher of the Cherokee alphabet. Endlicher was also a philologist, so he likely knew of Sequoyah's achievements. Unfortunately, Endlicher's writings give no clue to the etymology of Sequoia, and some very eminent botanists have proposed plausible alternatives. Asa Gray, for instance, thought it came from the Latin sequi, 'following', since it is the sole living representative of a sizable group of extinct plants.
Redwood is one of the few vegetatively reproducing conifers, readily regenerating from stump sprouts in the wake of a major disturbance (typically fire). One peculiar consequence of this is the occurrence of 'white redwoods', which are trees that originate as root sprouts and are competely nonphotosynthetic, deriving all of their carbohydrate from the roots of their photosynthetic associates (which are not necessarily related, as root grafting is common between redwoods). White redwoods are found only in old-growth forests, where the overstory biomass of photosynthetic redwoods is colossal (redwood forests have the highest aboveground biomass loadings in the world) and the white trees are generally less than 3 meters tall. However, white redwoods up to 20 meters tall are known to exist. The tree in the photograph is about 10 m tall. At the time of the photograph, the new year's foliage had not emerged; trees clad in fresh foliage are snow-white.
Redwood is the only naturally occurring hexaploid conifer. Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens and Sequoiadendron giganteum) are the state tree of California.
The sequoias (including Sequoia and Sequoiadendron) were another group, like Metasequoia, first known from the fossil record, although fossil material was not formally named until Steinhauera Presl 1838, ten years after Lambert described this species as Taxodium sempervirens.
The species was early (ca. 1826) introduced to Spain thanks to the collections of Tadeas Haenke during the Malaspina expedition.