Sequoiadendron J.Buchholz

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Credits

Tom Christian (2024)

Recommended citation
Christian, T. (2024), 'Sequoiadendron' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/sequoiadendron/). Accessed 2024-04-15.

Family

  • Cupressaceae

Synonyms

  • Americus Hanford nom. utique rej.
  • Steinhauera C.Presl
  • Washingtonia C.Winslow nom. rej.
  • Wellingtonia Lindl. nom. superfl.

Species in genus

Glossary

cone
Term used here primarily to indicate the seed-bearing (female) structure of a conifer (‘conifer’ = ‘cone-producer’); otherwise known as a strobilus. A number of flowering plants produce cone-like seed-bearing structures including Betulaceae and Casuarinaceae.
family
A group of genera more closely related to each other than to genera in other families. Names of families are identified by the suffix ‘-aceae’ (e.g. Myrtaceae) with a few traditional exceptions (e.g. Leguminosae).

Credits

Tom Christian (2024)

Recommended citation
Christian, T. (2024), 'Sequoiadendron' from the website Trees and Shrubs Online (treesandshrubsonline.org/articles/sequoiadendron/). Accessed 2024-04-15.

A monospecific genus closely allied to Sequoia, differing from it in its branches with undefined regions of annual growth, naked winter buds, leaves spirally arranged, triangular in cross-section, scale- or awl-like, the seed cones 4–10 cm long, maturing in two years (cf. branches with defined regions of annual growth, leaves mostly arranged in 2 ranks, linear, flattened, needle-like, the seed cones 1.3–3.5 cm long, maturing in one year) (Watson & Eckenwalder 1993; Bean 1981). For a full description see Sequoiadendron giganteum.

The name Sequoiadendron – invoking the close relationship with, but also the distinction from the related Sequoia – was only published in 1939, some eighty-seven years after the species had been described to science (Farjon 2017). The first decade or so after its discovery in 1853 was marred by nomenclatural instability, unintentionally triggered by the American botanist Albert Kellogg who had the opportunity to name the new species almost as soon as it became known, but dallied. The delay meant that the British botanist John Lindley published Wellingtonia Lindl. before Kellogg – or any other American – had a chance to name this icon of their own flora. That a British botanist should lend the name of a British politician and military hero to America’s greatest tree understandably affronted many Americans (to say the least) and various names were published to counter the British attack, notably Washingtonia C.Winslow. Indeed, it took botanists some years to conclude that Sequoiadendron did in fact merit separation from Sequoia at generic rank. For much of the latter part of the 19th century, and well into the 20th, conventional wisdom had decided it did not, and for much of this period the tree was known as Sequoia gigantea (Lindl.) Decne. In the end its distinctiveness would be amply proven, but the various nuanced rules of botanical nomenclature resulted in earlier generic names like Washingtonia and Wellingtonia being rejected, and American botanist John Bucholz established Sequoiadendron in 1939.

For many years Sequoiadendron was placed in the now-defunct family Taxodiaceae, along with such genera as Athrotaxis, Cunninghamia and Taiwania, which was defined by the spirally-arranged, needle-like leaves and the basal placement of the ovules on the cone bracts. When Metasequoia was discovered in the 1940s, with opposite leaves but otherwise strongly resembling Sequoia and Sequoiadendron in cone features, the aberrance highlighted others that had hitherto been tolerated, such as the presence of reduced, scale-like leaves in Sequoiadendron (Farjon 2017). In a detailed study, Eckenwalder (1976) demonstrated that no member of Taxodiaceae could justifiably be separated from Cupressaceae; later phylogenetic studies supported Eckenwalder’s view and Taxodiaceae was merged into Cupressaceae. For a more detailed discussion on this, and on the etymology of Sequoia, from which the name Sequoiadendron is derived, see the genus account for Sequoia.