Fires Destroyed Millions of California’s Most Iconic Trees

Photo: Max Whittaker

The New York Times interactive published a look back at the 2020 fire season in California and its devastating impact on three iconic tree species — the coastal redwood, the giant sequoia, and the Joshua tree.  Thousands of them — some of which were hundreds or even thousands of years old — burned in the space of weeks. The story, by John Branch with photos by Max Whittaker, and graphics by Veronica Penney, is visually stunning and poignantly written.

“The enchantment that California’s forests provoke can be scientific or spiritual. For the state’s three famous plant species, it is probably both. The allure stems from each one’s unique blend of size, shape and age. Their heft, their height, their persistence. Their sheer audacity.

They are never found together. Yet they share an uncommon ability to silently stand there and elicit a reaction — gasps, giggles, photographs, memories. How many other trees can attract a crowd?

Resiliency is key to their magnetism. They survive where others would not. They stand their ground, with panache.”

Why This Matters:  Fires burned more than 4 million acres in California this year and because of climate change, many scientists believe these trees, which had survived for hundreds of years, will take hundreds of years to come back.

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