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A Guide to the Giant Sequoias of Yosemite National Park (1949) by James W. McFarland


USES OF THE GIANT SEQUOIA

Today most of the giant sequoia groves are protected in State parks or national parks and national forests . At one time a considerable volume of lumber was produced from the giant sequoias; but, owing r to the difficulty of logging such immense trees and the great loss, up to 80 per cent, as a result of logging breakage, comparatively little reached the market. Although some of the largest trees contain more than 300,000 board feet (enough to build 30 six-room houses), most of this would be lost in logging or is of too poor a quality to be economically useful.

The wood of giant sequoia is light, soft, brittle and rather weak. It has a fuel value of 38 per cent and a breaking strength of 49 per cent in comparison with white oak (Quercus alba). Its chief value is for use where resistance to decay is important but strength is a minor factor. The excellent condition of old fallen logs, some of which fell centuries ago before the discovery of the species, testifies to its durability and ability to re, sist decay. It is a sad commentary that many of the larger trees that were logged ended up as grape stakes.

Although it would appear that today the giant sequoias are of sentimental rather than of commercial importance, this is not altogether true. The few remaining virgin areas of our country it which the vegetation is left in essentially its original natural state are becoming of increasing importance to scientists in solving the varied problems of agriculture wild game management and reforestation.

Indirectly the giant sequoia is of inestimable value in the maintenance of flood control and in conserving the water supply in the areas lying to the west of the Sierra Nevada crest. The roots of this immense tree fill the ground, forming a thick sponge that absorbs and holds back the rains and melting snows, only allowing them to ooze and flow gently. So great is the retention of water in many places that bogs and meadows have been created by the fallen trees.

The giant sequoia is becoming increasingly popular as an ornamental. Its youthful, slender conical form graces many a mile of our boulevards and highways.

Planted in reforestation in Denmark, excellent stands were killed by unusually low temperatures before the roots were protected by a blanket of snow in the winter of 1942.

Several hundred thousand visitors come each year to see the giant sequoias of Yosemite National Park. In their harmony of color, in their symmetry of form, and in the cathedral-like aspect of their sculptured columns towering toward azure skies, they have found pure enjoyment and inspiration to a better way of life.


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