While not a Big Tree Hunter, I thoroughly enjoy finding beautiful specimens in prime habitat—where individual trees or groves of trees are humbling. There are certain locations where forests hold more prodigious specimens—often fantastically larger than in similar vegetation types elsewhere. Because forests are dynamic systems it is impossible to pinpoint any single factor that may lead to this gigantism. Most likely, a combination of synergistic circumstances come together in these primordial places—including some good luck.
Some of these ideal factors include, but are not limited to, optimal light, elevation, aspect, soil conditions, access to water, healthy competition from others and—as mentioned—luck in the long-term. The luck is the interesting factor that, at least in northwest California, has chaperoned this preternatural evolution. In higher elevations, glaciation was not a major factor so extinctions have been less common; species have been able to hide out in these optimal nooks for a long time. Also, while volcanic activity occurred nearby, it did not occur in the temperate coniferous forests ofthe Klamath Mountains or Coast Range of northwest California.
Other bad-luck factors that could lead to the toppling of giants, like fire or wind storms, may occur; but in these select places either have not or the forests simply survived them. The last contingency to endure is the human one—these hide-outs must have been fortunate enough to have avoided the ax. Here, this fortune comes from either complex geomorphology or the forethought to protect a place—or the combination of both. Northwest California offers a unique opportunity to see this diversity of species through a range of microclimates, often protected as old-growth forests...