in the most visited groves—as if the memory of more or less notable people of our day might be made enduring by the juxtaposition—do suggest some incongruity. When we consider that a hand’s breadth at the circumference of any one of the venerable trunks so placarded has recorded in annual lines the lifetime of the individual thus associated with it, one may question whether the next hand’s breadth may not measure the fame of some of the names thus ticketed for adventitious immortality. Whether it be the man or the tree that is honored in the connection, probably either would live as long, in fact and in memory, without it.
One notable thing about the Sequoia-trees is their isolation. Most of the trees associated with them are of peculiar species, and some of them are nearly as local. Yet every pine, fir, and cypress of California is in some sort familiar, because it has near relatives in other parts of the world. But the redwoods have none. The redwood—including in that name the two species of “big-trees”—belongs to the general Cypress family, but is sui generis. Thus isolated systematically, and extremely isolated geographically, and so wonderful in size and port, they more than other trees suggest questions.
Were they created thus local and lonely, denizens of California only; one in limited numbers in a few choice spots on the Sierra Nevada, the other along the Coast Range from the Bay of Monterey to the frontiers of Oregon? Are they veritable Melchizedeks, without pedigree or early relationship, and possibly fated to be without descent? Or are they now coming upon the stage—or rather were they coming but for man’s interference—to play a part in the future? Or are they remnants, sole and scanty survivors of a race that has played a grander part in the past, but is now verging to extinction? Have they had a career, and can that career be ascertained or surmised, so that we may at least guess whence they came, and how, and when?
SEQUOIA AND ITS HISTORY 173
Time was, and not long ago, when such questions as these were regarded as useless and vain—when students of natural history, unmindful of what the name denotes, were content with a knowledge of things as they now are, but gave little heed as to how they came to be so. Now such questions are held to be legitimate, and perhaps not wholly unanswerable. It cannot now be said that these trees inhabit their present restricted areas simply because they are there placed in the climate and soil of all the world most congenial to them. These must indeed be congenial, or they would not survive. But when we see how the Australian Eucalyptus-trees thrive upon the Californian coast, and how these very redwoods flourish upon another continent; how the so-called wild-oat (Avena sterilis of the Old World) has taken full possession of California; how that cattle and horses, introduced by the Spaniard,