SEQUOIA AND ITS HISTORY 175
last stronghold, can neither advance into more exposed positions above, nor fall back into drier and barer ground below, nor hold its own in the long-run where it is, under present conditions; and a little further drying of the climate, which must once have been much moister than now, would precipitate its doom. Whatever the individual longevity, certain if not speedy is the decline of a race in which a high death-rate afflicts the young. Seedlings of the big trees occur not rarely, indeed, but in meagre proportion to those of associated trees; T small indeed is the chance that any of these will attain to “the days of the years of their fathers.” “Few and evil” are .: the days of all the forest likely to be, while man, both bar-barian and civilized, torments them with fires, fatal at once to seedlings, and at length to the aged also. The forests of California, proud as the State may be of them, are already too scanty and insufficient for her uses. Two lines, such as may be drawn with one sweep of a brush over the map, would cover them all. The coast redwood—the most important tree in California, although a million times more numerous than its relative of the Sierra—is too good to live long. Such is its value for lumber and its accessibility, that, judging the future by the past, it is not likely, in its primeval growth, to outlast its rarer fellow-species.
Happily man preserves and disseminates as well as destroys. The species will doubtless be preserved to science, and for ornamental and other uses, in its own and other lands; and the more remarkable individuals of the present day are likely to be sedulously cared for, all the more so as they become scarce.
Our third question remains to be answered: Have these famous Sequoias played in former times and upon a larger stage a more imposing part, of which the present is but the epilogue? We cannot gaze high up the huge and venerable trunks, which one crosses the continent to behold, without wishing that these patriarchs of the grove were able, like the
long-lived antediluvians of Scripture, to hand down to us, through a few generations, the traditions of centuries, and so tell us somewhat of the history of their race. Fifteen hundred annual layers have been counted, or satisfactorily made out, upon one or two fallen trunks. It is probable that close to the heart of some of the living trees may be found the circle that records the year of our Saviour’s nativity. A few generations of such trees might carry the history a long way back. But the ground they stand upon, and the marks of very recent geological change and vicissitude in the region around, testify that not very many such generations can have flourished just there, at least in an unbroken series. When their site was covered by glaciers, these Sequoias must have occupied other stations, if, as there is reason to believe, they then existed in the land.