The Giant Redwood was introduced by Cornish-born William Lobb, who was employed by the famed nursery of James Veitch & Sons to travel to California to collect seeds, including of newly-discovered conifer species. In 1852, he eventually discovered a stand of Giant Redwoods in Calaveras Grove. With the British enthusiasm for gardenesque-style estate planting at its height, Lobb immediately recognised the market potential of his new find, cut short his trip and returned home with the Giant Redwood seed. Within a year, Veitch’s nursery was offering seedlings for sale and Cambridge University Botanic Garden was among the earliest recipients of these plants.
The two trees on opposite sides of the Main Walk near the Fountain are believed to have been planted out in 1855, from Lobb’s original collection. Their magnificent pyramidal shapes introduce a dynamic vertical lift to the landscape, softened by the feathery foliage and studding of small cones. The soft, spongy, reddish bark is very attractive and irresistible to adults and children. The tree adjacent to the Main Walk has generated two root suckers that are beginning to form a thicket which is hugely popular with younger visitors.
The opposite tree is 25.7m, but the tallest individual (and the tallest tree in the Garden) is at the junction of the Main Walk and the Henslow Walk, and reaches 30.7m. None come close to the tallest wild Giant Redwood growing in California, which, at approximately 2,500 years old, measures over 80m and is popularly known as General Sherman.