On the nomenclature of the Sequoia and Sequoiadendron genera.

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2012/06/14

The use of the title Wellingtonia should be banned forever. Although I have every admiration and respect for the Iron Duke, the use of his name in connection with the tree is pure politics. So-called by English botanist J. Lindley in 1853, many US scientists objected to the name due to proximity of the 1812 war. Thus in 1854 the American C. Winslow proposed the name Washingtonia.

However, the purist botanical taxonomists added to the confusion by deciding that the two species were of different genera. As the coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) was the first of the two species to be named and described, it had to be called Sequoia.

Sequoyah was a Cherokee Indian with a German father who devised an alphabet for the Cherokee language and had no link to the trees, or to California. But he was lionised by conscience-ridden politicians of the late nineteenth century, who questioned whether policies which targeted native peoples were strictly in accordance with the sentiments embodied in the American Constitution.

Hence, both species were named Sequoia as being more aboriginal than Washintonia. But of course, there was now the generic difference, so -dendron was added to the name. This distinguished the enormous redwoods growing up in the Sierra Nevada (Sequoiadendron) from the equally colossal redwoods thriving on the coast (Sequoia.) There are now at least another six names in common usage, but the American Forest Service uses the following:

It is the former species which LCV failed to measure at Scone!

Try this method:

How to take the top height of a tree without profanity or mud-snorkelling

  1. Identify the tree: no substitutes allowed.
  2. Obtain a straight stick, piece of dowelling, hazel rod or light metal tubing.
  3. Cut the length of the stick to the exact distance between your right eyelid and your right fist, with the supporting right arm rigid and parallel to the ground.
  4. Position yourself where the tip of the tree and the base are both in good view.
  5. Move forward or backward until the tip of your stick coincides with the tip of the tree, and your fist with the base.
  6. Get your assistant - standing to one side - to check that your rigid right arm is parallel to the ground and that your stick is definitely upright and orientated ninety degrees from your rigid right arm.
  7. When the image of the stick truly covers the view of the tree, stop and mark the spot.
  8. Measure the distance from this spot to the base of the tree.
  9. This distance is the top height.