Giant 'Washington Tree' Gets Smaller

The tree as it appeared in 1999.

The tree as it appeared in 1999. Kevin Gong hide caption

itoggle caption Kevin Gong
The Washington Tree in February 2005

The Washington Tree is about 115 feet high, down from 254 feet in 1999. Tony Caprio, National Park Service hide caption

itoggle caption Tony Caprio, National Park Service

Just six years ago, the Washington Tree was one of the world's largest trees. But fires and storms have taken their toll. Once soaring 254 feet, the giant sequoia is now less than half that height.

NPR's Melissa Block talks with Jody Lyle, fire education specialist for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, about the status of the tree named for America's first president.

 

About the Washington Tree

• Over the last 2,000 to 3,000 years, the tree has withstood hundreds of fires.

• Prior to 1999, it was measured at 254 feet in height, although some park records indicate that it might have been slightly shorter.

• In 1999, while studying sequoia tree canopies, researchers discovered that the Washington Tree was largely hollow.

• In 2003, the tree lost a portion of its crown during a lightning-caused fire, lowering its height to about 229 feet.

• In January 2005, the tree lost much of the rest of its crown as the result of winter storms. It's now approximately 115 feet tall.

• The Washington Tree has a base circumference exceeding 101 feet. It has a half-dozen significant branches left, so it's not necessarily dying. Many giant sequoias have survived with less foliage. The tree could die soon, but it might live several more decades or centuries.

Source: National Park Service

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