The Most Incredible Trees to See in the United States
Marvel up at some of the tallest, largest, and grandest living specimens known to America. From the iconic General Sherman sequoia and Endicott's pear tree to ones that were here long before the Mayflower, these noble landmarks are nothing less than national treasures.
There's no doubt in anyone's mind that we need trees for our survival; trees help clean the air, provide the oxygen we breathe, material to burn and build with, plus they give us food to eat. But here’s a question: Do trees need us? Well, we can't know for sure, but we can all agree that we are partners on this planet and should appreciate them to their fullest.
To gaze up at a towering redwood or sit in the shade of a majestic oak canopy makes one wonder if trees are perhaps sentient beings. Peter Wohlleben, author of The Hidden Life of Trees, believes that trees are complex organisms that live in families, protect and support their neighbors, and even have the ability to communicate and make decisions. Wohlleben also believes that to successfully save our forests from a rapidly changing world, we must begin to see trees in a different light and view them as "wonderful beings."
Trees do hold stories in them; their bark and branches have seen history travel by, from births to battles to even bombings. And these living listeners hide this historical luggage somewhere inside. The beautiful book Wise Trees by Diane Cook and Len Jenshel helps tell the story of how and where trees and humanity come together. To create Wise Trees, Cook and Jenshel traveled for two years and went to roughly 60 destinations across five continents to document a selection of our world's most historic and awe-inspiring trees.
We have narrowed our list to the top specimens in the United States, so tour along as we admire these wise and wonderful beings.
General Sherman Tree
Named after William Tecumseh Sherman, a Civil War general, this famous tree is the largest in the world (by volume). Believed to be 2,500 years old, it stands an impressive 275 feet tall and is over 36 feet in diameter at the base. You can visit this living giant at Sequoia National Park in Tulare County, California, where a fence protects the tree's shallow roots.
Pando Aspen Tree Grove
The largest organism in the world is named Pando, Latin for "I spread," and it is a massive grove of quaking aspen trees in Fishlake National Forest, Utah. In fact, 47,000 aspens all originate from a single male parent aspen that genetically cloned itself and so they all share an identical genetic makeup. The grove has survived for thousands of years, but grazing animals and human development have threatened Pando's ability to produce young offspring to replace dying trees.
Oklahoma City Survivor Tree
This century old Elm has withstood a lot, including evading the devastating Dutch Elm disease in the 1930s, living in an inhospitable asphalt parking lot, and being badly burnt by the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Now, this healthy tree stands proudly on the Memorial grounds in Oklahoma City, serving as a comfort to those who witness its resilience.
Southern live oaks are native to the lowland country of the coastal Carolinas, where they grow outwards more than upwards—with the exception of one on Johns Island near Charleston, South Carolina. This legendary beauty is thought to be the oldest tree east of the Mississippi, some 400 to 500 years old. It earned its name from the family that once owned the state, Justus and Martha Waight Angel, and is now the property of the city of Charleston.
Methuselah (named after the oldest person in the Hebrew Bible) is a gnarled and twisted ancient bristlecone pine, discovered in 1957, that was once the oldest known non-clonal organism on Earth (4,800 years old) until in 2013 when another bristlecone pine in the Inyo National Forest of California was discovered (over 5,000 years old). The Methuselah tree and its cousin are so protected that their locations have remained unknown to the public.
Very iconic and photogenic, the Lone Cypress clings to its solitary granite perch along the Monterey Peninsula's famously scenic 17 Mile Drive in California. At 250 years old, it has seen its share of vandals, drought, whipping wind, smothering fog, and torrential rains. While it battled high windstorms and lost a large limb last year, it still stands.
Named after the Greek Titan Hyperion, this redwood was discovered in 2006 and is considered to be the tallest tree in the world. In September 2006, the tree was measured by American botanist Steve C. Sillett, coming in at whopping 380 feet (and perhaps still growing). Scientists insist on keeping the location of Hyperion safe so only a few people know the exact location.
Endicott Pear Tree
One of the first American fruit trees planted by European settlers is alive and well in Massachusetts. It was sometime between 1630 and 1649 when John Endecott, a governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and one of the Colony's earliest settlers, first planted the Endicott Pear on his 300-acre estate in Danvers. He hoped it would long outlive him by generations, a wish that the tree far surpassed despite harsh New England winters, storms, and snow. Today, Endecott's tree is protected by its status as a national landmark and is believed the oldest living cultivated fruit tree in North America.
9/11 Survivor Tree
Found beneath the rubble of the Twin Towers in 2001, a callery pear tree became known as the "Survivor Tree" after enduring the September 11, 2001 terror attacks at the World Trade Center. This severely injured tree was salvaged and taken to a nursery in the Bronx where it was placed in the care of New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. The healthy tree was finally replanted at the National September 11 Memorial in 2010 where it stands as a living symbol of strength and rebirth.