High on the western slopes of the California Sierra Nevada mountains grows a vast array of sugar pines, black oaks, and the most iconic trees on the planet, the Sequoia.
Some of these trees are taller than a 30-story building with enormous trunks, and 40 people holding hands would barely circle the circumference of one of these giant trees.
For centuries the Miwok Indians called the trees Wawona after the hooting sound of the indigenous spotted owl, which nested high in the boughs of these monumental towers in the Sierra mountain range.
The early pioneers called them "the big ones." Plant botanists eventually classified them as Sequoiadendron giganteum. Most people today call them the giant sequoias of the Sierras.
Trees around the world are old and grand, from the ancient olive trees in the Mediterranean to the Eucalyptus trees of Australia. Some species of tree grow on every continent, except for the Arctic and Antarctic.
Trees have witnessed civilizations rise and fall, from Chile's giant Monkey Puzzle trees to our native Torrey pines on the La Jolla sandstone bluffs. And, of course, oak trees dot the world, from Europe to our native coastal oak trees of California.
All trees have had their place in global history as humanity evolved and grew in this timeline for centuries.
Let's take a tree voyage to see how trees lived on the earth millions of years ago and how history was carved with epic events over the millennia as trees grew up and blanketed our planet.
As the sequoia seeds fell from its tiny cones, tree giants were born and still survive to this day and are thousands of years old.
• 1500 B.C., the people of Greece built ships of pine and oaks and began to sail and trade with Egypt and the Palestine nation.
• 1300 B.C. Stonehenge was built to study the stars and the earth's calendar at that time, and it still exists today while forests grew in the region and supplied timbers for rolling those giant stones into place.
• 1270 B.C. Moses leaves Egypt and receives the Ten Commandments, it is recorded. Many regions of the world had dense untouched growing forests in those times. The trees stood silent and viewed history in the making around the globe.
• 1100- 1000 B.C. In Mexico, the Olmec people are building pyramids made of earth and carving giant god-like stone sculptural heads weighing some 40 tons, among the ever-encroaching exotic jungle of trees and the understory thicket.
• 776 B.C. The first Olympic games are held in Greece to celebrate athletic excellence. There was only a foot race at that time. Wood merchants harvested pine trees hundreds of miles away and hauled them to build homes, fortresses, and the inner structure of the Grecian communities. Trees played a significant role in creating civilizations, and man went to the forests and started harvesting the bounty of trees.
• 550 B.C. Siddartja Gaitamma is born. He became known as Buddha, which means "enlightened one," and founded the religion and beliefs known as Buddhism under the Bodhi tree
• 438 B.C. The Parthenon was built over years of importing stones and marble slabs from many miles away and hauled in on wooden wagons. Trees again played a significant role as man used the natural resources around him.
• 264 B.C. Gladiators become popular as events in the Colosseum for the public's entertainment with men and exotic animals challenging each other to the finish. Trees again were part of the inner structures and built communities in those times.
• 214 B. C. The Chinese began construction of the "Great Wall." The 13,000-mile wall took many centuries to complete through the tree-clad mountains of China, and the native trees looked on its majestic construction.
• 69 B.C. Cleopatra was born as the "Queen of the Nile" and ruled Egypt from 44 B.C. until her death from a snakebite. The Greeks tricked the Trojans with their gift of a wooden horse built from the timbers of tree forests. Plates and goblets were made not only from exotic metals for the very rich, but spoons, bowls, and mugs were carved from the wood of trees.
• 421 A.D. Venice is built by using 10 million sharp wooden poles driven into the mud flats of the swampy lagoon. These poles were harvested and imported from far away Croatia, Slovenia, and Montenegro, and then barged to the mud flat site. Again, the forest has supplied humanity with building materials of all kinds, and I am in awe of such engineering tasks that man has accomplished. Just hold a sharp wooden pencil in your hand and think that it's 60 feet in length and is part of the foundation in the building of Venice. Does that give you some perspective on this arduous task and perspective on that scale?
• 1163: In Paris, the French were building the Cathedral of Notre Dame on the Seine River. The church recently had a significant fire but is being rebuilt today with new technology, and oak timbers are imported from woodlands miles away from the reconstruction site in Paris today. The goal is to have it completed by the summer Olympics in 2024. And I say, "something old, something new, something borrowed, and something trees in its revival'.
• 1492: Christopher Columbus sailed from Spain across the Atlantic Ocean and landed off the coast of North America. The ships were being built out of the trees brought down to the seaside and then milled and constructed as the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria.
• 1564: William Shakespeare was born and created classic plays about Hamlet, Othello, and Macbeth and saw theaters constructed from the trees of the English countryside.
• 1775: The American colonies revolt against England. In 1787, the colonies drafted the United States Constitution, but the forests stood their own during this turbulent time of a growing nation.
• 1861: The American Civil War was fought between the North and the South. The forest trees of those eastern states saw those battles, and if the trees could speak, how many stories they could share would surprise us with the varied tales of hardship and drama from that era.
• 1876: Alexander Graham Bell was granted a patent for his telephone invention, and the story evolves to our current cell phones of today. And millions of trees were cut and used for early poles as they stretched across the continent. The conversations that rippled along those tree poles must have been unique, vivid, colorful, and historical in content.
• 1885: The Statue of Liberty is presented to the United States by the people of France and stands 302 feet high in the Hudson River. My Swedish grandfather and mom saw that statue as a welcome sight coming to America as they both immigrated in the early 1900s and entered the Hudson harbor to carve out a new life in America. Wooden scaffolding was constructed around the statue to hoist up the copper sheets in its building, and trees once again were part of history in the making on our shores.
• 1903: In Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Wilber Wright flew the first engine-powered airplane. His plane was built from wood, wire, and canvass, and the flight only lasted seven seconds and flew about 120 feet. So, wood from trees then took to the air in new frontiers.
• 1904: Millions of wooden barrels were constructed and filled with whiskey, pigs-feet, salted herring, pickles, beer, and all sorts of materials to be transported throughout the towns and moved on the cobblestone streets by horse-drawn wooden wagons. And America built new buildings from trees harvested from the local forest. The timber industry came into its own and was booming, from the woodsman cutting the trees in the woods to the lumber mills, manufacturing the boards that helped build our country.
• 1930: Agriculture tapped into the food industry by planting tree crops like citrus, peaches, almonds, chestnuts, and more to feed America's hungry growing populations. Once again, trees are part of the fabric of our culture and a mainstay in our tree history.
• 1945: World II ended, and the United Nations was founded to bring peace and resolve conflicts globally. Trees of many lands are like the silent docents growing in those varied war zones and witnessing so much devastation. Trees gave shelter to the troops, hiding and advancing out in the forests, and if trees talked, the tales would be eventful and fill volumes of historical books.
• 1956: The United States Congress designated the General Grant Sequoia as the "Nations Christmas Tree" up in the Sierra mountains. I attended a holiday ceremony in that Redwood grove and had to snowshoe in on a December day to get to that site.
• 1969: Neal Armstrong sets his first foot on the moon. "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind," As he looked back, the earth's trees still grew back on this blue marble from which he had just traveled.
• 1975: Personal computers were introduced. Wooden telephone poles are now replaced by orbiting satellites. But the forests today are being threatened by acid rain in Europe and tree slash-cutting along the Amazon delta, which is part of the earth's giant air-conditioner. And the world will never be the same moving forward into this electronic future, but trees remain as one of our saviors to aid in cooling the earth.
Trees can document and share past weather patterns, lighting strikes, bug invasions, droughts, and past fires that have roared through the forests and left evidence in the scarred annual rings of the trees.
The art of dendrology is the understanding of these growth rings that the tree produces each season. These annual rings also can tell the tree's age and past historical weather patterns.
Trees of all species still blanket our planet as the earth turns. They are the actual historians who have witnessed time over the millennium, from prehistoric times to our current drought cycle affecting the world in its many hot spots.
In California alone, we have the coast Redwoods, the tallest trees, the Sequoia, the most giant by volume, and the oldest, the Bristlecone pines. And I have been blessed to visit all of them in my lifetime; each visit was a unique experience that I treasure in my memory tree bank.
So, as we all are entering a new global climate alteration, give some thought to how trees have evolved in this planet's timeline and seen the rise and fall of civilizations as we float through this one galaxy.
We all should be responsible for protecting, preserving, planning, and planting for the future. So please do your part, be it local, national, or globally with many tree planting organizations trying to save our planet. Pitch in today and help cool the earth.
Roger Boddaert, the Tree Man of Fallbrook, can be reached at 760-728-4297 for consultations on land and creative tree care.