Featured Image: The robust, thick stem of a natural two-year-old sequoia seedling in Board Camp Grove
I recently returned to Board Camp Grove, a very small sequoia grove that burned harshly in the 2020 Castle Fire. The forest was a completely different place compared to my previous visit shortly after the fire. Instead of ash and gray, it’s now chock-full of life. I spent time admiring the verdant flushed out trees, lush streamside plants, waterfalls cascading over boulders, a momma and baby bear running across the slope, and of course, impressive natural sequoia seedlings. I was surprised by how large and hardy the baby giants looked, especially after it was so hot and dry the year after the fire, and at only two years of age. They appeared incredibly robust and healthy and I believe they should be beyond mortality risk at this point. I also noted several remarkable surviving giant sequoias with crowns full of green cones and the obvious ability to reseed the future forest.
Seeing natural post-fire seedlings like these has provided an immense sense of comfort for me. This is what our fire-adapted forests do best. As most people already know (but might need to remember in light of recent events), sequoias thrive by fire. They depend on it in order to reproduce and populate their chosen forest area. Ash-covered earth provides the perfect growing medium for millions of sequoia seeds that fall like rain after a burn. Right now I have the awe-inspiring privilege of witnessing the birth of a brand new generation of ancient beings. I’m also watching the unique way in which the nascent giants grow. For instance, they often cluster together in one area, just as their elders do, while avoiding another seemingly suitable area altogether. I’ve been attempting to document the natural sequoia regrowth like this across several groves impacted by the recent fires. I say attempting because this has become next to impossible as seedlings are being killed in far too many places, especially in the groves south of Sequoia National Park, due to awful (and absurd) post-fire logging. What I’ve been witnessing since the Castle Fire has become worse than the fire itself, and that’s a rather big statement since the fire shattered my whole world.
After walking up the steep slopes of Board Camp Grove, I crossed over the high ridge to the northwest and came down through Homer’s Nose Grove – which looks good. There’s severe burn of course, but a majority of the sequoias survived and it was nice to see so many green domes. Some of the seedlings had surprisingly thick stems of at least an inch in width, and unsurprisingly, there were more seedlings in more intensely burned areas than those that burned moderately. I also spotted a fisher in the grove, which was a special treat.
Another observation of interest are possible “grove expansion” seedlings. For instance, in Board Camp I found several seedlings on the very steep northwest slope high above the nearest sequoia, including one seedling that took hold at least 150 feet straight uphill. I’m guessing that wind or squirrel carried seed upslope. On another trip to Dennison Grove, I found a seedling 1/4 mile away from the closest sequoia. I plan on continuing to document these occurrences over time since they could possibly suggest grove movement.
I have submitted what I’ve experienced to Sequoia National Park in the hopes that they reconsider their ill-conceived tree plantation in Board Camp Grove (read more here). The harsh burn in Board Camp was shocking initially, however it is now clear that the grove will not only survive but perhaps even thrive in the wake of the fire.
About the Author:
Sue Cag is a musician, artist, writer, photographer, and nature preservationist.
All photos and video by Sue Cag. All Rights Reserved. Photos and video may not be used without permission.
GALLERY OF LIVING GIANT SEQUOIAS AND SEEDLINGS IN BOARD CAMP GROVE: