California is home to 20 species of pines, according to Conifer.org. Although many of the pines of California are majestic, some of them stick out as exceptional trees known worldwide. The mountains of California are home to some of the tallest, oldest and most impressive trees in the world.
By some accounts the giant sequoia, known by the Latin name Sequoiadendron giganteum, is the largest living organism on earth. The largest individual giant sequoia, the General Sherman, is 250 feet tall and almost 25 feet in diameter. Giant sequoias seem to have no natural limit to their lifespan. Instead, they keep growing until their incredible height causes them to topple over and die. There are only 25 groves of sequoias in the world, all in the Sierra Nevada range. Giant sequoias have a number of identifying characteristics beside their height. Nearctica.com describes their needles as "scale-like." They are about 3/16 to 1/2 inches in length, triangular and overlapping. The needles are blue-green except for two small white lines. The cones are about 3 inches long and have diamond-shaped sections. The bark and the cones are reddish-brown.
Although the giant sequoia is the largest organism in the world, the giant redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) is the tallest. The largest redwood, the Mendicino, is 336 feet long. Redwoods also live for a very long time, with some trees more than 2,000 years old. Giant redwoods live along the Pacific coast of Northern California up to the far south of Oregon. Giant redwoods have reddish-brown bark and cones like giant sequoias, but their appearance differs in a number of ways. Their cones are oval but become round when they open. They have uneven, convoluted-looking sections instead of the regular diamond-shaped sections of sequoias. Giant redwoods have two types of needles. The most common are long skinny ones about 1/2 to 3/4 inches in length and grow on the branches in two rows. Near the cones, it also has 1/4 inch needles closely packed like scales.
Intermountain Bristlecone Pine
Far older than the oldest giant redwoods are the Intermountain bristlecone pines (Pinus longaeva). Until recently, these were believed to be the oldest trees in the world, with some more than 4,600 years old. Intermountain bristlecone pines are far smaller than redwoods and sequoias, growing to a more modest 48 feet in height. They are found on high, rocky slopes in California, Nevada and Utah. Intermountain bristlecone pines have distinctive looking cones. Each segment of the cone has a hooked spine coming out of it. The cones are 2-1/2 to 3-3/4 inches long. The needles are yellowish-green and between 1 and 1-1/2 inches in length. The bark is reddish-brown.