Wednesday, July 3, 2013

King of all the conifers: Sequoia gigantea

John Muir (1838-1914) is known as a preservationist, who triggered the modern conservation movement at the end of the 19th century. His writings about nature inspire thinking in terms of biodiversity. His book The Mountains of California includes a chapter with the title The Forests, in which he puts down his observations about and around trees of California's Sierra Nevada. Muir had an obvious instinct for nobility, injecting a sound of arboretal racism into his texts, when he compared trees of the America's North West [1]:
Between the heavy pine and Silver Fir belts we find the Big Tree, the king of all the conifers in the world, “the noblest of a noble race.”
John Muir, 1894.

With “Silver Fir belt” he refers to the main forest belt of  “two noble firs,” the white silver fir and magnificent silver fir (Abies concolor and Abies magnifica, respectively).

Muir's noble “Big Tree” (Sequioa gigantea) of the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada is today known by scientific and common-name synonyms as well as spelling variations including Sequoiadendron giganteum, Wellingtonia gigantea, bigtree, giant sequoia, Sierran redwood and Sierra-redwood [2-4]. The currently accepted scientific name is Sequoiadendron giganteum (Lindl.) Buchholz [4].

Keywords: anthropocentrism, conifers, order Pinales, family Cupressaceae, subfamily Sequoioideae, natural history, taxonomy.

References and more to explore
[1] John Muir: The Mountains of California. The Century Company, New York, 1894. Note: see pages 128 to 141  in the Penguin Classics Book print of 1985 with an introduction by Edward Hoagland.
[2] The Gymnosperm Database: Sequoiadendron giganteum (Lindley) J. Buchholz 1939 [].
[3] ARKIVE: Giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) [].
[4] USDA Forest Service Index of Species Information: Sequoiadendron giganteum [].

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