The planet’s 4th largest tree by volume was dedicated Aug. 10, 1923, in honor of President Warren G. Harding, at the hour of his funeral.

By Sarah Elliott, 16 April 2019, 3RNews

The President Tree is the fourth largest tree in the world. It is easily accessed via the Congress Trail in Sequoia National Park’s Giant Forest.

The Congress Trail is a paved loop trail that begins and ends at the General Sherman Tree parking lot. It is a self-guiding trail and, although the most famous of the named trees are also graced with carved, wooden signs, there are pamphlets available at the trailhead that correspond with numbered markers along the trail that discuss various natural features of the forest.

The Congress Trail leads in many different directions as it meanders through the Giant Forest.

It is also advised to travel in this area with a map in hand (available at park visitor centers). There is a network of trails criss-crossing the Giant Forest plateau and though most junctions are marked, it’s easy to become confused.

To reach the President Tree, take the Congress Trail — which is marked with a sign just east of the Sherman Tree — into the forest past the Leaning Tree, where the route then turns south.

In less than a tenth of a mile, the trail crosses Sherman Creek. Although above the return loop portion of the trail, it can be intermittently seen below.

The trail climbs gently, and in just over one-quarter of a mile, crosses another tributary of Sherman Creek. A trail junction is reached in under a half-mile that connects with the return loop.

Stay left here and continue to gradually ascend on the Congress Trail south. At just over three-quarters of a mile, the trail meets the Alta Trail.

This is where a slight detour will allow a glimpse of the beautiful Chief Sequoyah Tree. Instead of turning right on the short portion of the Congress/Alta trails just before they again go their separate ways, continue instead straight, crossing the Alta Trail.

This one-tenth of a mile segment is part of the Trail of the Sequoias, a six-mile loop trail that explores the highest reaches of the Giant Forest plateau, as well as Log, Crescent, and Circle meadows, Tharp’s Log, and provides access to several other trails in the area.

About 500 feet south of the Alta Trail on the Trail of the Sequoias, the Chief Sequoyah Tree comes into view. It is reached by a short spur trail that ascends to the left.

The Chief Sequoyah Tree was named in 1928 by Colonel John R. White, park superintendent, for the man who developed an alphabet for the Cherokee people, one of the greatest intellectual feats of all times. German botanist Stephen Endlicher, who originally named the trees sequoia gigantea (the Big Trees are now botanically known as sequoiadendron giganteum) and sequoia sempervirens (coast redwood), did so in Sequoyah’s honor, but changed the spelling to how it appears today.

Back on the trail, the President Tree is in sight on the right side of the trail, an easy jaunt of one-tenth of a mile. The President Tree was dedicated Aug. 10, 1923, in honor of President Warren G. Harding, at the hour of his funeral.

Presidents of the United States well understand the checks and balances provided by their various branches, and for this, the President Tree is aptly named. It’s branches are high up, large, and powerful, keeping the main body of the President, its trunk and lifeline, upright and true despite the species’ shallow roots system.


Sequoia National Park was created in 1890, named for the tree that it was created to preserve. The end.Or is it?

By Sarah Elliott, 20 July 2020, 3RNews

Sequoia National Park’s namesake is the Sequoiadendron giganteum, known to us laypeople as the giant sequoia, the most massive tree on the planet. But history may not be correct in how the “sequoia” received its name.

The sequence of Sequoia

The species of redwood that today bears the botanical name Sequoiadendron giganteum was identified by Stephan Endlicher (1804-1849), an Austrian botanist who died by suicide at the age of 44. It has been widely written, even by Sequoia National Park representatives, that Endlicher named the largest tree on the planet for Sequoyah (1770-1843) of the Cherokee Nation who created a syllabary of 86 characters that provided thousands of Cherokees the opportunity to read and write.

There is research that debunks this theory, stating that the European scientist never wrote down that he was honoring Sequoyah with the name Sequoia and there is no record of him speaking of this. In the words of one scientist who has written extensively on giant sequoias, it is contended that:

Sequoyah Sillabary
Sequoyah’s syllabary in the order that he arranged the characters. (Wikimedia Commons)

The Latin word that Endlicher chose to derive the prefix of the name for the coast redwood that established what Lowe (2012) called Endlicher’s sequence of five genera in his Suborder Cunninghamieae is indeed appropriate: ‘I follow, i.e. sequor.’ Since in the verb ‘sequor’ the ‘passive r … was added immediately to the root of the verb,’ then dropping the added ‘r,’ leaves the root verb ‘sequo’ to which is added the Latin suffix ‘ia’ used in the naming of plants, yielding the new word Sequoia as the name for the plant. The Latin suffix ‘ia’ means something derived from, relating to, or belonging to what is conveyed in the prefix. The question then arises: Was Endlicher aware of this specific Latin grammatical nuance in order to derive his prefix? Yes. …” (from the book DEBUNKING THE SEQUOIA honoring SEQUOYAH MYTH, by Gary D. Lowe, 2018).

Sequoyah is remembered kindly by history, and his accomplishments have been honored. Oklahoma gave a statue of Sequoyah to the National Statuary Hall Collection in 1917. Sequoyah’s cabin in Oklahoma, where he lived from 1829 to 1844, is a National Historic Landmark. The United States Postal Service issued a stamp in his honor in 1980. However, as scholars and scientists delve deeper, it’s unlikely that Sequoyah is the namesake of the giant sequoia and, thus, Sequoia National Park.

Here is another citation:

In 1847 Endlicher, a German [sic] botanist, believing that [the tree] was a distinct genus, published it under the name of Sequoia. [Endlicher], contrary to custom, omitted to give the origin of his name, and botanists have conjectured that it was intended to commemorate ‘Sequoyah,’ a … Cherokee Indian, who, all by himself, invented an alphabet and taught it to his tribe by writing it upon leaves. … It seemed fitting that the redwood should be named for the red man, yet Prof. J. G. Lemmon and others consider it to have been derived from sequor (to follow) alluding to the fact that our redwoods are the followers of a vanishing prodigious race, which Prof. Lemmon considers a much more appropriate and pleasing origin for the botanical name of our monster tree.” —George Morris Homans, California State Forester, 1910-1921 (italic added to highlight the cultural racism)

And finally:

… No one has ever found mention in [Endlicher’s] writings of Sequoyah’s name or of his unique Cherokee syllabary. It was apparently assumed that Endlicher, a known philologist, admired the Indian for his linguistic accomplishments. The assumption became widespread, and some botanists, such as Asa Gray, searched the Endlicher papers for confirmation, but in vain. French botanist de Candole agreed with Gray that ‘the supposed origin of Sequoia from Sequoyah is entirely fanciful.’ —The Giant Sequoia of the Sierra Nevada, by R.J. Hartesveldt, H.T. Harvey, H.S. Shellhammer, and R.E. Stecker (1975)

[Article continues below. Click on the images for a slideshow.]

All that’s left today are their markings of millennia in stone…

Native people and Sequoia’s place names

Sequoia National Park set aside wilderness to preserve in perpetuity. This sounds good in theory (if you’re a white person), but the legislation took away yet more ancestral lands from the Native peoples. At that time, a scattering of Indigenous tribes was still living in the region that would become United States’s second national park before the end of the 19th century.

The irony of the national parks, and Sequoia in particular, is that these lands didn’t need protection until the white settlers arrived. They mined the mountains, their stock grazed the meadows, they cut the sequoias, and they displaced the Indigenous caretakers who coexisted with the land and respected the natural world.

By the end of the 19th century, the Native peoples who didn’t assimilate into white society were soon extinct. All that’s left today are their markings of millennia in stone: bedrock mortars scattered along the waterways, the mysterious bathtub-like basins in the sequoia groves, and some pictographs telling an undecipherable story of human occupation.

Contemporary tributes are few to the Native population that called the Sequoia region home for so many generations. There’s the carved “Indian head” sign at the entrance to the park. There are two place names along the highway named for tribes: Potwisha Campground (a Native village site) and Wuksachi Village (named in the 1990s).

Of the ancient Big Trees, dozens of which have commemorative names, only one tree in Sequoia National Park was named for an Indigenous person: Chief Sequoyah Tree. In contrast, there are twice as many trees — two — named for Black Americans: Colonel Charles Young and Booker T. Washington. The rest of the named trees mostly pay tribute to colonizers.

The ‘Indian Head’ sign at the entrance to Sequoia National Park.
Chief Sequoyah Tree
The Chief Sequoyah Tree in the Giant Forest Grove, Sequoia National Park.

The Chief Sequoyah Tree is a deserving tribute to an accomplished man who was greatly admired by the Cherokee people and others, but (1) Sequoyah is most likely not the namesake for the giant sequoia or Sequoia National Park, and (2) Sequoyah was not a chief. His maternal grandfather was a chief, but Sequoyah never held that distinction.

There is the Suwanee Grove of giant sequoias, which is a name derived from a native language. “Suwanee” is a projectile tool made by Native inhabitants of the eastern part of the country but the grove could also be named for a town in Georgia. Or Kentucky.

The trail to the pictographs at Hospital Rock, Sequoia National Park.

Hospital Rock provides visitors with the most visual replica of Indigenous occupation. There was a Native village here and there are prehistoric pictographs and bedrock mortars in the vicinity.

The Kaweah River is derived from the Native language. According to James Barton (1819-1912) of Three Rivers (the author’s great-great-grandfather): “Kaweah is formed from two words… Kawa is the Wutchumna word for crow. Aweah means ‘water’ in the same language. The combination of the two means crow-water and people got to pronouncing it wrong and it now has the name Kaweah.”