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The King William Giants



Giant Sequoias in Wurttemberg



Lutz Krüger


Shortly before his death, 150 years ago, King William I of Wurttemberg gave the royal forestry commission in the country an unusual mission, the preparation and realisation of which, lead to a diversity of results which was without parallel.


The discovery of the giant sequoia trees in North America in the middle of the 19th century caused a sensation, which King William I as a nature lover took as an opportunity to have seeds of these exotic trees sent directly from California to the temperate greenhouse of the current Wilhelma in Stuttgart in order to raise thousands of young trees. The giant trees were known at this time in Wurttemberg as Wellingtonia.


The young plants were then planted systematically at exposed locations in the royal forests and in numerous castle gardens and parks in Wurttemberg.


This anniversary treatise is intended to describe the history of this impressive initiative of King Wilhelm I of Wurttemberg, and in particular the diversity and beauty of the remaining 132 sites of this so called “Wilhelma-Seed” in all of Wurttemberg, distributed from North Wurttemberg to Lake Constance in the south.


This book presents details of the locations in Wurttemberg, which were developed with the help and support of my friends and colleagues of the initiative "Project Sequoia" launched years ago.






"Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever is able to speak with them, whoever is able to listen to them, learns the truth. They do not preach teachings and recipes, they preach to the individual, the primordial law of life."


Hermann Hesse

Table of Contents

Development of Sequoias

Types of Sequoia

Longevity and Reproduction by Fire

Discovery in the 19th Century

First Plantings in Europe

Nomenclature and Classification

Spread of the Giants in the Gardens of Europe

King William I and the Exotic Giants

Report of the Royal Construction and Garden Directorate

Royal Forestry Commission Decree

Wilhelma-Seed Inventory in the 20th Century

Locations of the Wilhelma-Seed in Wurttemberg

Photo Records


Photo Credits



Development of Sequoias

In the younger eras of the earth’s history various species of giant trees developed during the Cretaceous period (Late Cretaceous, about 100 to 66 million years ago). The discovery of approximately 15 million-year-old fossils has confirmed that the genus Sequoiadendron (that is, the Giant Sequoia or the Wellingtonia) has already appeared in the Palaeogen and Neogen periods (approximately 66 to 2.5 million years ago, formerly known as Tertiary). Finds in various coal deposits in Germany show that giant trees of a similar kind belonged to our native flora in our latitudes.


Due to extreme climate changes in the ice age, animals and plants were forced to shift their habitats. In Europe, these "natural migrations" were restricted due to high mountain ranges (Alps) and led to the extinction of many plant species, whereas the situation for the viability of giant trees in parts of North America was more favorable.

Types of Sequoia

The Giant Sequoias are conifers and belong to the family of cypresses (Cupressaceae). In this, they form a subfamily (Sequoioideae), which contains three genera each containing one living giant tree species.


For each of these species, the botanical name and (in parentheses) other known names are given in the English / German-speaking region.


  • Sequoiadendron giganteum (Giant Sequoia, Big Tree, Sierra Redwood, Wellingtonia, Washingtonia / Bergmammutbaum, Wellingtonie)

  • Sequoia sempervirens (Coast Redwood, California Redwood / Kustenmammutbaum)

  • Metasequoia glyptostroboides (Dawn Redwood, Chinese water fir / Urweltmammutbaum)


The giant sequoias of the Wilhelma-Seed belong to the species Sequoiadendron giganteum. The name Wellingtonia has been used in the German-speaking world since the discovery of this specie in the 19th century and is often used as a synonym for the Giant Sequoia.




Cones, Seeds and Needles of the Sequoia, Photos: MG

Longevity and Reproduction by Fire

The very high age of the Giant Sequoia in North America (over 3,000 years) is due to the fact that this tree species is able to protect itself from most of the common threats of nature. The bark of these trees is very thick (up to 60 cm1 measured in 2,000 to 3,000 years old trees) and rich in vegetable tannins, which provide a particularly good protection against fire damage, insect and fungal attack.


For a successful growth the Sequoia tree seedlings need a very nutrient-rich soil, plenty of sunlight and enough free habitat for the development of the young plants.


For this reason, periodic forest fires are necessary for the natural reproduction of mammoth trees in North America. These destroy competing plants and produce fertile soil for the seedlings. With the ascending heat of the fire, the hanging cones open, releasing the seed for the future giants.

1 23.6 in

Discovery in the 19th Century

In 1852, the first report of the discovery of giant trees was published by A. T. Dowd. As early as 1833, however, members of the Joseph Reddeford


Publisher: BookRix GmbH & Co. KG

Publication Date: 05-01-2017
ISBN: 978-3-7438-1064-8

All Rights Reserved

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