When my parents came out to California for my graduation from my PhD program in molecular neurobiology a dozen years ago, I took them with me to visit Muir Woods National Monument across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. One of the last old-growth forests of coastal redwoods in California, Muir Woods has been protected from logging and commercial development since 1905.
We certainly didn't have trees like that in Michigan when I was young!
Anyway, I bought my parents a souvenir tree from the gift shop there. Now this sapling was not that of a coastal redwood, but rather of a giant sequoia. What had caught my attention was the claim that seqouias could grow in any climate in the United States, as long as the young tree got established well enough to begin with.
My Dad took this as a challenge, and planted the thing in a five-gallon paint can he'd filled with dirt.
For at least three years he grew the tree in that pot, dutifully bringing the plant indoors in the winter so it wouldn't get damaged by the cold, and then lugging it back outside once spring came. He eventually planted the young tree behind their house there in Michigan, on the edge of the woods onto which their property backs.
It was about six inches tall when they got it, and about a foot and a half tall when he planted it in the ground.
A dozen years later now the sequoia's trunk is several inches in diameter, and reaches almost as high as the roof of the house.
Because it had been planted along the border of the woods, the tree's branches tended to form on the side of the trunk away from those other trees, rather than being perfectly symmetrical. (I suspect this is not the first sequoia to have gotten its start in life that way!)
Dad was afraid the thing might fall over because of its lopsided growth pattern so he braced it up, and kept adding height to the top of the brace as the years progressed.
Now that my parents are going to be moving away, I'm sad that I'll not be able to monitor the fate of my once-tiny sapling anymore. At least according to the instructions which came with the plant when we got it, the tree has the potential to live hundreds of years, if not thousands.
One can see the typical coniferous leaf patterns of my Dad's Sequoiadendron giganteum in the photo above, if one looks closely. For only having been in the ground for nine years, the tree has grown at an astounding rate!
I just love botany!
Blessings and peace to one and all,
Fr. Tim, SJ