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pierre laszlo

 
Sequoiadendron giganteum (Cupressaceae)

Sequoiadendron giganteum (Cupressaceae)

This emperor of trees is too well-known to once again tell of its awesome magnificence, of its religious importance to American Indians and of its discovery by white settlers during the nineteenth century. I shall only refer to one of its meanings, symbolical in nature.  
Sequoias appeared on this planet around 200 million years ago.  The fossil evidence shows them to have populated all the continents, to such an extent as to number no fewer than forty species 60 million years ago. Giant sequoias still inhabited Europe as recently as 12,000 years ago. However, they were wiped out by the great glaciations of the Quaternary age, surviving only in California, in a small set of tiny geographic pockets. 
That the United States thus became a conservatory for the giant sequoias and their relatives, I deem symbolic. In this case, instead of nature being a source for human culture, the reverse might be true.
To explain such an intuition, my response, in my twenties, to first seeing the major art museums of the US was shock at the sheer wealth of their holdings of European art. However, I quickly told myself, those had been acquired by money, not by plunder, as with many riches in the British Museum or the Louvre. Furthermore, in purchasing them Americans had saved many from looting by the Nazis or from destruction in a European war — since those have been relentless over the centuries (and still continue). 
This is the main meaning of sequoias to this writer: along with the Statue of Liberty, a living memory to America-the-shelter, to it having been conservatory to some of the treasures of mankind — for which it has our gratitude, enduring in like manner as the giant sequoias.