Would you believe that some of the oldest, tallest and most massive living objects on Earth can be found in the forests of California? It’s true! What are we talking about? Dinosaurs? Bears? Bigfoot?

Nope! We’re talking about trees. Specifically, we’re talking about Sequoia sempervirens, more commonly known as the Coastal Redwood, and Sequoiadendron giganteum, more commonly known as the Giant Sequoia.

Many people think of redwoods and sequoias as the same tree. They both call California home. They’re both coniferous (cone-bearing), evergreen trees with similar cinnamon-colored bark. And they both grow to amazing heights (many are taller than the Statue of Liberty).

However, redwoods and sequoias are separate species that also have their differences. For example, both redwoods and sequoias grow in very special, but different environments.

Coastal redwoods get the “coastal” part of their name from the fact that they grow only along a narrow area of the Northern California coast. They need a wet, humid climate to grow. California’s northern coastline provides a lot of fog that satisfies redwoods’ need for moisture.

Giant sequoias, on the other hand, grow only along the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Although the climate in the mountains stays mild most of the year, the sequoias do get the dry heat they need each year for their seed-bearing cones to mature and release seeds. They also need thousands of gallons of water each day, which they get from the snow that accumulates in the Sierra Nevada Mountains over the winter.

There are a few other key differences between redwoods and sequoias. Redwoods are the tallest trees in the world. Many can grow over 320 feet tall (as tall as a 32-story building), and the tallest has been measured at approximately 379.1 feet, which makes it taller than Big Ben!

Sequoias don’t grow quite as tall although they can still reach over 300 feet. However, they’re the largest, most massive trees in the world. Whereas redwoods often grow up to 22 feet in diameter and weigh up to 1.6 million pounds, sequoias can grow up to 40 feet in diameter and weigh over 2.5 million pounds!

Perhaps the most impressive giant sequoia is the General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park. It is almost 275 feet tall and over 100 feet around at its base. It weighs about 2.7 million pounds and is believed to be the largest living tree in the world.

Redwoods and sequoias are also some of the oldest trees in the world. Redwood trees can live up to 2,000 years, while sequoias often live over 3,000 years. The oldest known sequoia is over 3,500 years old.

These giant trees still survive but in far fewer numbers than in the past. They still draw thousands of tourists to California each year to see their natural beauty and awe-inspiring size. In fact, they’re so huge that some trees have been hollowed out so that you can drive through them!

Some of the drive-through trees have fallen down over the years, but there are several trees you can still drive through. Three are located along a scenic stretch of California Route 254 known as the Avenue of the Giants: Chandelier Tree, Shrine Drive-Thru Tree and Klamath Tour Thru Tree. Each of these drive-through trees is privately-owned, so you have to pay a fee to drive through them.


43 Join the Discussion

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    • Hi, Tessa! Thanks so much for sharing one of the cool facts you learned by exploring today’s Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  1. Yay! 😀 I was right. Today’s wonder of the day is about trees. I loved today’s wonder! 😀 I think tomorrow’s wonder of the day is about dogs running.

    TJ :)

    • Way to go, TJ! We’re so happy that you visited today’s Wonder and left us this super cool comment to let us know you were here! :-)

  2. Today’s wonder is very cool and interesting.

    Can you really drive through a tree?

    I think tomorrow’s wonder is about
    why dogs run in circles?

    • Hi there, Day! Thanks so much for guessing what you think tomorrow’s Wonder will be about! We hope you are right! We’d like to WONDER more about dogs running in circles! :-)

    • Thanks for visiting Wonderopolis, Qualee! Did you know that a few of the large sequoias have been hollowed out, creating “tunnels” that you CAN drive a car through? Pretty neat, isn’t it? You can see pictures of the tree tunnels by clicking on the links inside today’s Wonder of the Day®! :-)

    • How WONDERful, Dana! We hope you guys enjoy your trip! Thanks so much for sharing your personal connection to this Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  3. Hi, did you hear about the Hunger Games? I’m going to see it some day, and it was made in N.C. It is so popular in my school and I’m impressed that it is so popular, and I hope you get to see it some day!!!!!!!!

    • We hope we can see the movie some day soon, Ashlyn, and we hope you get to see it, also! Thank you for being a GREAT Wonder Friend and leaving us this comment! :-)

  4. Wow, the I never knew that trees could be so big around their base. I lived in California for three years so I knew about the Redwoods and in 2007 my family visited California and saw the Redwood trees. The name Sequoia Sempervirens is really long and tricky to say. I had never known that the Redwood trees were over 300 feet tall. I was wondering if you knew where the General Sherman tree is located so I could see it in person? Last of all, thank you for the wonder, it taught me so much about trees.

    • It makes us super happy to hear that you learned so much about trees by exploring this Wonder, James, and we think it is AWESOME that you have seen some redwoods in person…what a special treat! The General Sherman tree can be found in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park! Here is a cool website page that tells you more about this BIG tree: http://www.nps.gov/seki/naturescience/sherman.htm. :-)

    • Those trees WERE big, Kimberlee! We had LOTS of fun learning about them, and we hope you did, too! We’ll all have to visit Wonderopolis to see what the next Wonder might be, but we think a future Wonder about gerbils is a WONDERful idea! :-)

  5. You are welcome for giving you that comment on Saturday. I’m seeing the movie on Friday and we are so psyched and pumped for the movie.

    • We hope you have a really GREAT time seeing the movie, Ashlyn! We know a lot of Wonder Friends who have seen it and so far everyone LOVES it! :-)

    • We thought this Wonder was super cool, too, Clara! Thank you for visiting Wonderopolis and leaving us this enthusiastic comment! :-)

  6. Dear Wonderopolis,
    I’m sure you could try to drive through a tree if you wanted to, but it would not be a smart idea. I think tomorrow’s wonder is about stars.
    Paige 😉

    • Hi, Paige! We think it would be really awesome to drive through a tree tunnel! Thanks so much for leaving us this great comment today! :-)

  7. Dear Wonderopolis, I now know SO much more about driving through trees by reading the article. I learned two new words (seamless and coniferous) also I learned nine new facts (Redwood and Sequoia trees are coniferous trees. Coastal Redwoods can only grow along a nnarrow area of Northen Califonian coast. The tallest Redwood tree in the world has grown to exactly 379.1 feet tall. Sequoia’s can grow to over 300 feet. Sequoia’s can be 40 feet in diameter and weigh over 2.5 million pounds. While Redwoods can only be 22 feet in diameter and weigh only 1.6 million pounds. Redwood trees can live over 2,000 years. Sequoia’s can live over 3,000 years.). Yet even after all this learning I still have a few questions which are…What do Coniferous trees look like and how do the trees with tunnels through them still stay upright I mean wouldn’t they fall down if the whole middle base of the tree is gone.

    • We’re SUPER proud of you for all the AWESOME facts about trees you learned by visiting this Wonder, Team McNeil #4! Way to go! We’re not sure how the tunnel trees stay upright. Maybe it is because HUGE trees have HUGE roots, and those roots help keep the rest of the tree stable and secure? Now you have us WONDERing about that, too! :-)

  8. Hello Wonderopolis!

    I really enjoyed reading this topic today! I definitely learned something new. Like how some trees are so big, that they are hollowed out so you can drive through them. Why would you have to drive through a tree though? Are some Redwoods or Sequoias in the road? I also learned 2 new vocabulary words, seamless and sequoias.

    I can’t get over how interesting this was! I never new there was so much to trees! I also learned that the Redwoods are the tallest trees in the world! Those must be some really big trees!

    I have a question. Do you know about how many Redwoods and Sequoias there are in the world?

    Well, Thanks for all of the great WONDERS and topics to choose from! I will always be ready to learn more!

    Team Unger#1

    • What a GREAT comment you left for us, Team Unger #1! You learned a LOT about trees! We think people tunneled through some of those big trees because of the “novelty” of it, meaning they just thought it would be cool to drive through a tree tunnel and thought other people might think it was cool, too! :-)

  9. Dear Wonderopolis,
    I enjoyed this wonder because it was kind of like a teaser because it was not talking about driving head on into the trunk of a tree. I wonder about where do you get all these ideas from? It just seems like so little time to come up with a wonder after another. I would also like to know why do redwoods and seqouias grow so tall? Maybe because they live so long. But for now I hope you enjoyed my comment. I think an upcoming wonder will be about why do we have pets or a famous athlete.

    • Hi, Team McNeil15! We’re really glad you enjoyed exploring this Wonder about BIG trees! We agree with you that we think these types of trees grow so tall (and big around) because they live so long. Also, it has a lot to do with their environment and the fact that they’re just REALLY big kinds of trees!

      Thanks for asking about where the Wonders come from! Did you know that many of the ideas for our Wonders of the Day come from amazing Wonder Friends just like YOU? You can let us know what you WONDER about by clicking on the “nominate” link that’s found at the top of every page in Wonderoplis and answering a few easy questions! It’s FUN to nominate ideas for future Wonders…we hope you’ll give it a try! :-)

    • Hi, Steve! We’re glad you thought this Wonder of the Day® was interesting! Thanks for stopping by Wonderopolis today and learning about some really BIG trees with us! :-)

    • Pretty neat, right, Van Dyk? We think it would be REALLY awesome to drive through one of those tree tunnels! We had FUN learning about these HUGE trees, and we’re glad you did, too! :-)

  10. Dear Wonderopols,
    I want to hug a big tree, and drive through one. I didn’t know they were so big until I watched the video. :)
    We want the next wonder to be the last big dinosaur to die.

  11. I love trees and cows. I hope you have a wonder about cows. I learned that you actually can drive through a tree. I hope I can drive through a tree.

  12. I really liked this because at the beginning of this passage and video I really was wondering if you could drive through trees!!!!!

    • It sounds like we peaked your curiosity to explore this Wonder, Alexis! How, WONDERful! We are glad you enjoyed it! Keep WONDERing with us, Wonder Friend! :-)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Can you drive through a tree?
  • How are redwoods and sequoias different?
  • Where can redwoods and sequoias be found today?

Wonder Gallery

sequioa_shutterstock_13549783Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Can’t make it to California today to see a huge redwood tree up close? No problem! Check out this video from National Geographic that shows how a team of professional photographers stitched over 80 photos together to create a seamless photograph of a giant redwood.

You should also take the time to check out National Geographic’s Redwoods: Living Giants interactive. You can see a map of where the largest trees are located in California, view a timeline of one of the world’s oldest living trees and see what life is like in the top of one of these living giants!


Still Wondering

In National Geographic Xpeditions’ Forest Features lesson, children learn about different types of forests, including temperate deciduous forests, temperate evergreen forests and tropical rain forests.


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