10 Oldest Trees in California

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10 Oldest Trees in California

California is home to some of the largest and most famous trees in the world, the Giant Sequoias of the Sierra Nevada. Not only are these trees some of the largest in the world, they are also some of the oldest. Nearly all of the trees on this list are Giant Sequoias, but the two oldest are a Palmer’s oak and Great Basin Bristlecone Pine. All of these trees have survived for thousands of years and fortunately most are still alive.

10. General Sherman

Age: 2,300 to 2,700 years
Location:  Giant Forest, Giant Sequoia National Park, Sierra Nevada, California
Species:  Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)
Still Alive:  Yes

General Shermanphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Of all the trees on this list and the world, the General Sherman is perhaps the most famous. This is because the General Sherman is the largest known living (single stem) tree in the world by volume. General Sherman is 275 feet (83 meters) tall, and is over 36 feet (11 meters) in diameter at the base. The estimated volume of General Sherman is 52,508 cubic feet (1,487 m³). To go along with its impressive size, General Sherman is also one of the oldest living trees with an estimated age of 2,300 to 2,700 years.

Did You Know?

In the past, General Sherman was also known as the Pin Cushion Tree because visitors competed to see who could pin a dart (with their name attached) highest on the tree.


9. Mother of the Forest

Age: over 2,500 years
Location:  Calaveras Grove, Big Tree State Park, Calaveras County, California
Species:  Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)
Still Alive:  No

Mother of the Forestphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

While a few of the other trees on this list have been in tough situations that have irreparably damaged them, none have faced as tragic of a demise as the Mother of the Forest. This beautiful and ancient tree’s massive size – said to have been 328 feet (100 meters) tall and 93 feet (28 meters) in girth – was both a blessing and a curse.

Of course, the Mother of the Forest garnered a lot of attention and a man named George Gale decided that he wanted to show the world just how grand Mother of the Forest was. Gale removed over 60 tons of bark from Mother of the Forest and had it reassembled in London’s Crystal Palace as an exhibit that raked in a ton of money. Because its bark had been stripped, the remainder of Mother of the Forest burned up in a fire in 1908. Mother of the Forest was over 2,500 years old at the time of its death.

Did You Know?

The only good thing to come out of the destruction of Mother of the Forest and other big trees in the area was a move toward conservation efforts, which eventually became the Yosemite Grant that protects the Giant Sequoias of California.


8. Robert E. Lee

Age: about 2,600 years
Location:  General Grant Grove, Kings Canyon National Park, Sierra Nevada, California
Species:  Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)
Still Alive:  Yes

Robert E. Leephoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The Robert E. Lee tree, not to be confused with the General Lee in the nearby Giant Forest of Sequoia National Park, is the second largest tree in General Grant Grove and all of Kings Canyon National Park. This giant sequoia stands at 254.7 feet (77.7 meters) and is overall one of the largest/tallest trees in the world. The Robert E. Lee is currently over 2,600 years old.

Did You Know?

The Robert E. Lee was named by Richard Field, a Confederate lieutenant in 1875 in honor of Robert E. Lee, commander of the Confederate Army.


7. Washington

Age: about 2,850 years
Location:  Giant Forest Grove, Giant Sequoia National Park, Sierra Nevada, California
Species:  Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)
Still Alive:  Yes, but severely damaged

Washingtonphoto source: Monumental Trees

Before part of its crown was lost in a fire in 2003, Washington was the world’s second tallest tree, after General Sherman, at 254 feet (77.4 meters). Washington was reduced to 229 feet (69.8 meters) and still one of the tallest trees. Unfortunately, in 2005, Washington was severely damaged again following winter storms. Since then, Washington is only about 115 feet (35 meters) tall. While it may not be that tall anymore, Washington is still quite old and is estimated to be about 2,850 years old.

Did You Know?

The Washington still has about a half dozen significant branches of foliage, so technically the tree is still alive and scientists don’t know if it will die soon or live for many more centuries.


6. Grizzly Giant

Age: about 3,000 years
Location:  Mariposa Grove, Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California
Species:  Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)
Still Alive:  Yes

Grizzly Giantphoto source: Flickr via Steve DaCosta

The Grizzly Giant is the only giant sequoia on this list found outside of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. Instead of being one of many famous redwoods from those parks, Grizzly Giant is the star of nearby Yosemite National Park. In the past, Grizzly Giant’s age was estimated to be less than 2,500 years, but in 2019 refined scientific dating methods upped Grizzly Giant’s age closer to 3,000 years.

Did You Know?

Grizzly Giant has a volume of about of 34,005 cubic feet (962.9 m3). While this might seem like a lot, Grizzly Giant is only the 25th largest tree in the world by volume.


5. Bennett Juniper

Age: 3,000 to 6,000 years
Location:  Stanislaus National Forest, Tuolumne County, California
Species:  Western Juniper (Juniperus occidentalis)
Still Alive:  Yes

Bennett Juniperphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The Bennett Juniper is one of the few ancient trees of California that is not a redwood (although the Bennett Juniper is owned and protected by the Save the Redwoods League). Although there are core samples of the Bennett Juniper, its exact age is unknown. The core samples revealed that part of the Bennett Juniper is hollow, but it is estimated that the tree is anywhere between 3,000 to 6,000 years old. The Bennett Juniper is the oldest known juniper tree in the world.

Did You Know?

Like many of the other old trees on this list, the Bennett Juniper is not only old, but it is also impressively tall. The Bennett Juniper stands at over 86 feet (26.2 meters) and is the largest juniper in America.


4. The President

Age: about 3,200 years
Location:  Giant Sequoia National Park, Sierra Nevada, California
Species:  Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)
Still Alive:  Yes

The Presidentphoto source: Flickr via daveynin

The President, which was named after President Warren G. Harding in 1923, is the oldest living redwood in the world. Currently, The President is over 3,200 years old and is still getting older since it’s still living. Not only is The President one of the oldest trees, it’s the world’s second largest tree by volume of trunk, which is about 45,000 cubic feet (1,300 m³), with an additional 9,000 cubic feet (250 m³) of branches.

Did You Know?

Despite its advanced age, The President is still growing rapidly and its yearly output of wood is greater than that of younger trees.


3. Muir Snag

Age: More than 3,500 years old
Location:  Converse Basin Grove, Giant Sequoia National Monument, Sierra Nevada, California
Species:  Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum)
Still Alive:  No

Muir Snagphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The Muir Snag, discovered by and named for famous environmentalist and naturalist John Muir, is the oldest Giant Sequoia or redwood tree ever found. The unfortunately dead tree is estimated to have been over 3,500 years old at the time of its death.

Although Muir Snag is dead, the tree is still standing in the Converse Basin Grove. It is one of the few remaining trees in the Converse Basin, which used to the second largest giant sequoia grove in the world before it was devastated by logging.

Did You Know?

John Muir was able to determine the Muir Snag’s age by counting the tree’s rings visible through a giant fire scar. Muir initially counted 4,000 rings, but subsequent counts have lowered the trees age by a few hundred years.


2. Methuselah

Age: 4,851
Location:  White Mountains, Inyo County, California
Species:  Great Basin Bristlecone Pine (Pinus longaeva)
Still Alive:  Yes

Methuselahphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Since the Jurupa Oak is technically several cloned trees, Methuselah is often cited as the oldest individual tree (or non-clonal organism) in the world. Methuselah is a Great Basin bristlecone pine in California’s White Mountains that germinated sometime around 2833 BCE!

Methuselah’s current age is based on core samples taken in 1957 by by Edmund Schulman and Tom Harlan. The core samples showed that Methuselah was about 4,789 years old at the time and surprisingly the tree is still alive.

Did You Know?

Numerous people have probably walked by or even taken a photograph of Methuselah without knowing since its exact location is a closely guarded secret. The tree is located somewhere in the Methuselah Grove of the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest.


1. Jurupa Oak

Age: over 13,000 years
Location:  Jurupa Mountains, Riverside County, California
Species:  Palmer’s Oak (Quercus palmeri)
Still Alive:  Yes

Jurupa Oakphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

The Jurupa Oak, located in the Jurupa Mountains of California, is a colonal colony of Palmer’s oak estimated to be over 13,000 years old – this makes the Jurupa Oak the oldest tree in California. Palmer’s oak do not look like typical oaks and instead resemble small trees or shrubs. The Jurupa Oak has managed to survive so long by continuously cloning itself from time to time. Another unique thing about the Jurupa Oak is that it’s the only Palmer’s oak in the area as plant tends to grow in more temperate conditions.

Did You Know?

The Jurupa Oak only reproduces (clones itself) after a fire. New shoots grow on the scorched branches.

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