Magazine article American Forests

The Biggest Western Juniper

Magazine article American Forests

The Biggest Western Juniper

Article excerpt

"Like a rock," says the truck ad, describing this enduring champion's granitic existence over as many as 60 centuries.

John Muir observed that the western juniper "dies standing, and wastes insensibly out of existence like granite." In fact, many junipers also exhibit granitic durability in life, rivaling the bristlecone pines in longevity. These stout and sturdy trees, twisted and stunted like bonsai by the unforgiving elements of the Sierra Nevada, seem more like geologic extrusions than living organisms.

The champion western juniper was named after Clarence Bennett, a naturalist who devoted much of his life to the study of this species. Aside from its recognition as the biggest western juniper, the Bennett juniper is a tree of many superlatives. It ranks 14th, in points, among all champion trees. Only seven champions have a greater girth. It is one of the four surviving members of the first National Register of Big Trees, established in 1940. And it is probably the oldest champion of them all. Estimates of its age vary from 3,000 to 6,000 years old. A fallen branch only three inches in diameter contained 550 annual rings. …

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