Raw Materials Sequoia: Hello, Mr. President...

Sequoia: Hello, Mr. President...

01/17/16 08:20:09 (7 comments)

by: Juliett Ptoyan

Meeting a sequoia is often accompanied by the joy of recognition: we have seen it in the drawings in biology class books (see "Giants"), noticed it in the shows of National Geographic, and perhaps even remember an episode from Little Golden America where Ilf and Petrov explain the text on a tablet hanging near one of these trees.
We all have some knowledge about the Sequoia, but I found it nesessary (ok, almost necessary) to meet one in nature. And it was, I swear, a fantastic experience! One of a kind.
In California, where there are only about 500 redwoods (this is an endangered species), the most notable trees even have names: for example, in the national Sequoia park live General Sherman (83.8 m and almost 2,700 years old), and his neighbour President, the oldest sequoia in the world, who is more than 3,240 y.o.
To hug these gentlemen isn't too easy only because of their waists which are more than 7 meters in diameter: we can only stick our noses in the bark and try to catch the scent (or to rub 1-2 leaves between our fingers).
The photo below shows the President; the orange dots in the snow and the crown of the tree are Steve Sillett, a scientist from Humboldt State University, and his colleague.
This image was made up of 126 frames, and you can watch an exciting (and short!) backstage video by photographer Michael Nichols here.
To distinguish sequoias in the parks is quite simple: they are usually much taller than the rest of the trees; they have quite soft, fibrous bark with a sophisticated red color; and they have incredibly beautiful leaves - narrow, elongated, collected in pairs of rows and resembling mini ferns or an authentic art deco ornament.
Leaves of Sequoia sempervirens
It may seem that a sequoia's dry, wrinkled neck floats in the clouds. But as the average height is 60 meters, if you strongly tilt your head back, it is easy to see the shaggy apex.
Baby sequoia in the Sochi Botanical Garden
and author of the article tries to embrace it
I can talk about the smell of redwoods for hours, but it is better to find the nearest botanical garden and experience it for yourself: it is not a straightforward smell, but a complex melange of scents – pine, a little dusty, mossy and cool, with vanilla, liquorice and earthy undertones; calm, but organized – and maybe the most beautiful of all conifers. Probably because of this aroma, you can feel the calm and peace by standing near a sequoia (even if you don't believe in the power of nature, the songs of the earth and the same shamanish things).
Sequoia sempervirens' bark
In The Essential Oil of Sequoia Sempervirens, Merriam Severance Hayward points that redwood essential oil has a golden yellow color and the smell of fresh leaves; GC analysis of oil from its needles and bark illustrates that the main component of the scent is alpha-pinene (44.5% and 45.1%) – and we can see the same in other conifers: for example, spruce (Picea Abies) or Siberian pine oils contain 20-30%; alpha-pinene holds fame for its resinous undertone, and its presence in scent lets us know that conifers are near.
In perfumery, a redwood scent isn't widely popular, and rarely used in its pure form: the most interesting examples (in terms of the transmission of scent) can be Giant Sequoia by Demeter and Sequoia of Comme des Garcons (from red series). In the first example it's almost transparent and sandy, and in the second example it can be described as more intense and mature (thanks to moss).
An unexpected hint of sequoia can be found in the minty A*Men Pure Energy by Thierry Mugler – just a bottled teenager party in the middle of the summer, with lots of mint syrup, mojito and sparkling juniper berries. And sequoia, yes, but an unreal, plastic sequoia, merged with other conifers. It's a really weird effect – but sometimes I like it!
Do you?
Have you ever smelled sequoia?
Do you love it?

Juliett Ptoyan is a perfume journalist who collaborates with several glossy magazines, organizes perfume workshops and regularly writes for her own blog, bouquetjuliett.ru.



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This is a great article. I've never seen or smelled a sequoia, but I want to now!


I love all trees but these have a special place in my heart. Those growing in Germany - foremost in botanical gardens or Arboretum, are huge, yet tiny compared to Mr. President and his friend, yet one feels tiny next to them. Our lifespan must be like the blink of an eye to them.
And I Jodi is right, your tree hugging looks cute :)


Juliett, love the photo of you squeezing the tree. Adorable. :-)


To nitpick a bit. Sequoiadendron giganteum (giant sequoia) is endangered and has a limited range is the Sierra Nevada mountains and there may be just 500 or so of them in the wild. However, Sequoia sempervirens (Coast redwood) is still a valuable lumber tree and many second growth forests exist as well as remnants of ancient forests. The closeup of the leaves is the Coast redwood, whereas the Giant Sequoia has scale shaped leaves much like a cedar.

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This is one National Park I have yet to visit, and I can't wait! The scent of any tree is of great interest to me, partly because I have enjoyed the pine essence of many mountain vacations. Pinon Pines have an unusually sweet aroma, almost that of a resinous maple syrup. I'd love to see a perfumer utilize Pinon essence in a fragrance. <3

Thanks, Juliett, for your fine article!


I love the scent of the redwood needles! They have a lemony fresh odor different to any other evergreen I have experienced. The essential oil content is low from my experience having distilled the leaves but the resulting hydrosol is gorgeous, uplifting and gives a real hit of the forest. Also it's great that only the needle trimmings need be used! x Monica


I love this trees. When were visiting Red Wood park and Kings canyon, they said these trees never die of old age, they burn in wildfire to give way to young trees.


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