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John Muir on the Trees of Yosemite (Part 1)

John Muir on the Trees of Yosemite (Part 1)
By J. Zimmerman, Ph.D.

The trees of Yosemite, as discovered and reported by John Muir, are rapturously described by his own words.

Also see Recommended Books

Remarkable Trees of the World, a great book by Thomas Pakenham, is a treasury in words and photographs of 60 trees of unusually strong personality. Pakenham visited and photographed them around the world, in North America, remote regions of Mexico, Europe, Japan and other parts of Asia, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.

Ancient Trees: Trees that Live for a Thousand Years by Anna Lewington and Edward Parker.

John Muir on The Trees of the Valley.

The following quotes are from Chapter 5 of The Yosemite by John Muir.

For more details see his Chapter 6, The Forest Trees in General, of the same book.

On the ponderosa pine (Muir calls it "yellow" pine).

"The most influential of the Valley trees is the yellow pine (Pinus ponderosa). It attains its noblest dimensions on beds of water-washed, coarsely-stratified moraine material, between the talus slopes and meadows, dry on the surface, well-watered below and where not too closely assembled in groves the branches reach nearly to the ground, forming grand spires 200 to 220 feet in height. The largest that I have measured is standing alone almost opposite the Sentinel Rock, or a little to the westward of it. It is a little over eight feet in diameter and about 220 feet high. Climbing these grand trees, especially when they are waving and singing in worship in wind-storms, is a glorious experience. Ascending from the lowest branch to the topmost is like stepping up stairs through a blaze of white light, every needle thrilling and shining as if with religious ecstasy."

On the sugar pine.

"Unfortunately there are but few sugar pines in the Valley, though in the King's yosemite they are in glorious abundance."

On the incense cedar.

"The incense cedar (Libocedrus decurrens) with cinnamon-colored bark and yellow-green foliage is one of the most interesting of the Yosemite trees. Some of them are 150 feet high, from six to ten feet in diameter, and they are never out of sight as you saunter among the yellow pines. Their bright brown shafts and towers of flat, frondlike branches make a striking feature of the landscapes throughout all the seasons. In midwinter, when most of the other trees are asleep, this cedar puts forth its flowers in millions, -- the pistillate pale green and inconspicuous, but the staminate bright yellow, tingeing all the branches and making the trees as they stand in the snow look like gigantic goldenrods. The branches, outspread in flat plumes and, beautifully fronded, sweep gracefully downward and outward, except those near the top, which aspire; the lowest, especially in youth and middle age, droop to the ground, overlapping one another, shedding off rain and snow like shingles, and making fine tents for birds and campers. This tree frequently lives more than a thousand years and is well worthy its place beside the great pines and the Douglas spruce."

Book Choice.

Related pages.