Meet General Sherman, the largest tree in the world

The General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park weighs 2,000 tons. Located only a 90-minute drive from Fresno, California, it’s the largest, heaviest tree in the world, living off the moisture from glacier caps on the slopes of Sierra Nevada.

general sherman world's largest tree
Scenic view of famous General Sherman Tree, by volume the world’s largest known living single-stem tree, Sequoia National Park, California, USA

The staggering weight is only the first impressive statistic. It stands 275 feet tall and measures 36 feet in diameter, and is believed to be between 2,300 and 2,700 years old. 

General Sherman might seem like an unusual name for a tree, but you won’t be surprised to learn it comes from a very real person. General William Tecumseh Sherman was one of the Union Army in the American Civil War, and a man called James Wolverton fought under him. After the war, Wolverton became a park ranger in California and when the Sequoia National Park was established in the 1890s, the rangers wanted to name the tree after a person they considered equally great. Wolverton suggested his old general, Sherman. 

general sherman world's largest tree
General William Tecumseh Sherman. Credit: Library of Congress.

Before that, a nearby socialist colony had given it a different name. Their reasoning can’t have been too far removed from the park rangers, because they also chose someone they admired – Karl Marx. The name General Sherman is now rather entrenched, however, and it seems fitting. 

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The park is named after the Sequoia trees that grow there, of which General Sherman is one. This kind of tree was once found across the North American continent, as well as in Europe, but since the end of the ice age, when the glaciers receded, the giant trees largely vanished with them. Now, California is the only place in the world with Sequoias, where they grow along the western slope of the Sierra Nevada range. 

general sherman world's largest tree
Copyright: Public Domain Dedication
general sherman world's largest tree

Unsurprisingly, General Sherman is a rather popular tourist attraction. Seeing people line up for photos in front of it gives context for just how ginormous this thing really is. It is about a half mile’s walk from the car park, during which you will walk past other trees that are likely the biggest trees you’ve ever seen, unless you’ve been to see General Sherman himself before.

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The second largest tree in the world is found nearby, and is also named after a general in the Union Army: General Grant. It’s believed that this tree was found and named earlier, during the time Ulysses S. Grant was the American president.

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