Sequoia National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument

Sequoia National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument

Sequoias vs. Redwoods: Comparing Giant Trees

April 15, 2010, 1:43 pm

Fossil remains show that ancestors of the redwood family of trees grew worldwide at least 175 million years ago. The Ice Age, however, wiped out most of them. California is lucky enough to have two types of these unusual trees.


The giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum), found in Sequoia and Kings Canyon, is also called “Sierra redwood” or the “Big Tree.” It has a column-like trunk, stout branches and fibrous, reddish-brown bark.

This stately evergreen is one of the oldest living trees on Earth. Because of ideal growing conditions (mild, wet winters and dry, warm summers), it is also one of the fastest-growing trees.

Its dense bark, sometimes two feet thick, is the sequoia’s main defense. It is virtually impervious to brush fires and insect invasions.

Giant sequoias only grow naturally on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada. You’ll find them in about 70 locations, including 36 groves in Sequoia and Kings Canyon and three in Yosemite. They also grow in Sequoia National Forest and a few other isolated spots. Of the world’s 37 largest sequoias, 20 are giant sequoias growing in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.


The taller and more slender California coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) is more conifer-like in profile. It has a large base and reddish-brown bark. Coast redwoods often grow to be taller than sequoias. Redwoods can reach up to about 370 feet, while sequoias rarely top 300 feet.

The California coast redwoods naturally grow in a narrow band along the coast of California and Oregon where fog provides moisture to the growing trees. They also need abundant winter rain and moderate year-round temperatures.

The world’s first-, second-, third-, and sixth-tallest trees are redwoods. They grow within a mile of each other on Redwood Creek along the northern California coast. You’ll find them at Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Redwood National and State Parks, and Big Basin Redwoods State Park, all in California.






To 311 feet


To 367.8 feet

To 3,200 years


To 2,000 years

To 2.7 million lbs.


To 1.6 million lbs.

To 31 in. thick


To 12 in. thick

To 8 ft. diameter


To 5 ft. diameter

To 40 ft. diameter


To 22 ft. diameter

By seed only


By seed or root sprout

As large as oat flakes

Seed Size

As large as tomato seeds

Shaped like a
chicken’s egg


Shaped like a
large olive

Small, overlapping,
awl-shaped needles


Single needles that
fall off in sprays