California’s Historic Trees 

This Moreton Bay Fig Tree has been part of the San Diego’s Balboa Park landscape since 1914. PHOTO COURTESY VISIT SAN DIEGO.
This Moreton Bay Fig Tree has been part of the San Diego’s Balboa Park landscape since 1914. PHOTO COURTESY VISIT SAN DIEGO.

By Michele E. Buttelman 

Signal Staff Writer 

California is home to many notable landmarks, historic sites and “must see” attractions. People travel from across the globe to visit the Golden Gate Bridge, see with their own eyes the Hollywood sign and experience the “Happiest Place on Earth.” Among the top destinations included on nearly all lists are the California Redwoods.  

California is home to other magnificent trees as well, including the Santa Clarita Valley’s own “Old Glory.” 

Twenty years ago, tree-sitter John Quigley climbed this ancient 70-foot-tall Valley Oak estimated to be over 400 years old in protest over its imminent demise to make room for more development. His 72 days in the tree sparked international media attention and brought about the effort to relocate the tree to a safe space, where it continues to thrive.  

California Redwoods 

No list of California’s Historic trees is complete without the California Redwoods.  

Redwood National and State Parks 


The northern California coast is home to some of the oldest and tallest trees in the world. The Redwood National and State Parks are comprised of multiple parks to preserve the old-growth forests. The region is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Highway 101 runs through a large portion of the park, close to the coast. 

There are also many scenic drives, such as Avenue of the Giants or the Coastal Drive.  

The General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park ( is the most massive living thing on earth, with an estimated total volume of over 50,000 cubic feet. Coast redwoods are the tallest trees in the world. 

The Unusual Joshua Trees 

The Joshua tree, Yucca brevifolia, is a member of the Agave family. The tree is native to the arid Southwestern United States including California, Arizona, Utah and Nevada and northwestern Mexico. 

Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park. PHOTO COURTESY VISIT CALIFORNIA
Hidden Valley, Joshua Tree National Park. PHOTO COURTESY VISIT CALIFORNIA

Joshua Tree National Park 

74485 National Park Drive, Twentynine Palms, 92277 


The iconic Joshua Tree is the centerpiece of the Joshua Tree National Park. The park was established in 1994 for the preservation of the natural landscape and the native trees. 

The tallest Joshua trees in the park loom 40-plus feet high. Judging the age of a Joshua tree is challenging: these “trees” do not have growth rings like an oak or a pine. Experts can make a rough estimate based on height, as Joshua trees grow at rates of one-half inch to three inches per year. Some researchers think an average lifespan for a Joshua tree is about 150 years, but some of the park’s largest trees may be much older. Head up to Key View for the best viewpoint in the park.  

Saddleback Butte State Park 

17102 E Ave. J,  

Lancaster, CA 93535 

The state park surrounding Saddleback Butte was created in 1960 to protect the butte and examples of native Joshua Tree woodlands and other plants and animals that were once common throughout this high desert area. 

Ancient Bristlecone Pines 

Ancient Bristlecone Pines grow where most other vegetation cannot, limiting the impact that a forest fire might havoc on their near-eternity. The Great Basin Bristlecone pines are an extremely rare species found only in California, Nevada and Utah. 

The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest 

White Mountain Road, Big Pine, 93514 



The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest is located in the White Mountains of Eastern California in an area of Inyo County protected by the United States Forest Service. 

Follow the Methuselah Grove trail along its 4.5-mile loop to explore the grove where the tree “Methuselah” stands.  

Methuselah was long been considered Earth’s oldest living thing. According to tree-ring data, Methuselah is 4,854 years old. It was a well-established tree by the time ancient Egyptians built the pyramids at Giza. 

Methuselah is now the second-oldest tree in the world after the recent discovery of a small Norway Spruce in the Swedish arctic that has been proven to be roughly 9,500 years old, it is referred to as Old Tjikko. 

Methuselah is not marked to keep it safe from vandalism. The forest is open from mid-May to end of November. 

The visitor center and Schulman Grove (where Methuselah is located) is between 9,500 and 9,800 feet above sea level. The Patriarch Grove, 13 miles farther down a dirt road, is above 11,000 feet above sea level.  

California Landmark Trees 

In addition to the General Sherman and the Methuselah trees California has several other trees of interest.  

San Diego Moreton Bay Fig Tree 

Balboa Park, El Prado, San Diego 92101 


Since 1914 a Moreton Bay Fig Tree has been part of the San Diego’s Balboa Park landscape. 

It is documented to have been planted as a 5-gallon Ficus macrophylla in 1914 in preparation for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. 

The tree was officially measured in 1996 at 78 feet high, with a crown width of 123 feet and a trunk girth of 486 inches.  

This tree is listed in the California Registry of Big Trees as one of the champion trees of the state. 

The Pine and the Palm 


Just south of Madera, 1.75 miles south of Ave 12, and 2.1 miles north of Ave 9 (or more specifically at 06-MAD-99-05.7), a pine tree and a palm tree grow adjacent to each other in the median of Highway 99. The trees have been there since the 1920’s and mark the former halfway point in California. The Palm Tree, a Canary Island Date Palm, represents Southern California and the Pine Tree, a Deodor Cedar, represents Northern California. In 2005, the pine tree fell down but was replaced by Caltrans in 2007.  

There is no safe place to stop and admire the trees along the freeway.  

The Historic Highway 99 Association of California, dedicated to the preservation of former US Highway 99 is currently fundraising to install a marker for this historic site. For more information visit

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