Cloning The Sequoia

James Pogue at The Believer:

Here are some things you can learn from Peattie: sequoias are, of course, the largest of all trees, and the most massive freestanding organisms in the world. They live as long as three thousand five hundred years, longer than all trees but the Chilean alerce and the bristlecone pine, which grows east of here, over the Sierra crest and across the Owens Valley. I like to stand at certain vantage points in the Sierras and imagine that I can look north to the three-thousand-year-old Bennett juniper, west to the sequoias, east to the bristlecones, and south to the ancient clonal stands of Mojavean creosote bush, and be somehow at the center of a circle of inexplicable, primordial genetic wisdom.

You will never find a lonely old-growth sequoia, because they live in groves, of which only seventy or so still survive. You don’t have to be a mystic to think that this is because they are sociable old trees—we are only now learning how plants communicate underground and through aerosols they emit, and in a sequoia grove it doesn’t take long to notice they are working together to form a special environment: a grove provides an airy break from the denser, darker, and more juvenile west-slope forest; it is a place where “the bright world,” as Peattie puts it, “is never shut away.”

more here.

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