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The biggest western juniper.

"Like a rock," says the truck ad, describing this enduring champion's granitic existence over as many as 60 centuries.

John Muir observed that the western juniper "dies standing, and wastes insensibly out of existence like granite." In fact, many junipers also exhibit granitic durability in life, rivaling the bristlecone pines in longevity. These stout and sturdy trees, twisted and stunted like bonsai by the unforgiving elements of the Sierra Nevada, seem more like geologic extrusions than living organisms.

The champion western juniper was named after Clarence Bennett, a naturalist who devoted much of his life to the study of this species. Aside from its recognition as the biggest western juniper, the Bennett juniper is a tree of many superlatives. It ranks 14th, in points, among all champion trees. Only seven champions have a greater girth. It is one of the four surviving members of the first National Register of Big Trees, established in 1940. And it is probably the oldest champion of them all. Estimates of its age vary from 3,000 to 6,000 years old. A fallen branch only three inches in diameter contained 550 annual rings. It took 700-1,000 years for the tree to add the outer foot of its 13-foot diameter.

Of all the storms, fires, and droughts this old patriarch has weathered in over a million days of stubborn existence, none could compare to the modern threat of axes and chain saws. Thankfully, in 1978 rancher and owner Joe Martin donated the Bennett juniper and three acres surrounding it to the Nature Conservancy. Since then, protectorship has been passed on to the Save-the-Redwoods League which continues to ensure that our oldest champion tree will endure like granite for centuries to come.
Common Name Western Juniper
Scientific Name Juniperus occidentalis
Location Stanislaus National Forest,
 Calif.
Nominator J.R. Hall
Owner Save-the-Redwoods League
Most Recent Measurement 1983
Circumference at 4 1/2 feet 480 in.
Height 86 ft.
Crown Spread 58 ft.
Total Points 581
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Forests
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Bronaugh, Whit
Publication:American Forests
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Words:329
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