Giant Sequoia tree identification

The Giant Sequoia Sequoiadendron giganteum, also known as the Wellingtonia or Giant Redwood or Sierra Redwood, is a conifer native to the Sierra Nevada in California. The tree grows on the western slopes of these mountains at heights of 1400 to 2000m. It was introduced to Britain in 1853 and some trees are already over 50m tall, but in California they can grow to nearly 100m and some may be 3500 years old.  

Giant Sequoia tree identification – very tall with flared trunk, red and spongy bark, scale leaves on hanging shoots and small cones. Although closely related, the tree differs from the Coast Redwood in that it has only one type of leaf. The Giant Sequoia has scale-like leaves (with sharp points) that coat downward-hanging shoots. The cones also droop down in large numbers. The cones are not large. The bark is red and spongy and the trees are massive.

The Dawn Redwood, the Coast Redwood and the Giant Sequoia (sometimes called the Sierra Redwood) are all related. They are relics from a period 100 million years ago when they were widespread. They now have very restricted natural distributions – the Dawn Redwood to central China and the other two to California. Click on any photo to enlarge it.


Giant Sequoia tree

The tree is massive.

Giant Sequoia bark

The bark is red and spongy and the trunk flares out at the base.

Giant Sequoia scale leaves

The scale leaves coat downward-hanging shoots.

Giant Sequoia scale leave tips

Close-up of the scale leaves showing their sharp points.

Giant Sequoia scale leaves

The shoots are bunched together.

Giant Sequoia pollen cones

Male ‘flowers’ shedding pollen in March.

Giant Sequoia cone

A cone in July. They stay green, on the tree, for a year and ripen in the second year.

Giant Sequoia old cone

An old cone found on the ground under the tree.