The Bennett Juniper is an 86-foot high unrivalled specimen of a Western Juniper, America’s largest. Located near Eagle Meadows, it is estimated to be 3,000-6,000 years old. On windswept meadows in the Stanislaus National Forest at 8,500 feet, the gnarled and knotted tree has withstood centuries of drought, hard winters, and lightning strikes.
History and Background
This special juniper received its name in honor of Clarence Bennett, a naturalist who visited the site in 1932 and began studying this specific species. Ed Burgeson led Bennett to this location and showed him the large Western Juniper that Basque sheepherders had discovered in the 1920s.
The authors last known measurement of the juniper was in 1983. Its circumference was 480 inches (at a height of 50 inches on its trunk). It was 86 feet in height with a 58-foot crown spread. Its red, fibrous bark is similar to a coastal redwood. Gnarled, knotted branches have lichen on top and reach out to small, shrub-like green leaves.
It wasn’t until 1940, when the American Forest organization began documenting the largest known specimen of every native and naturalized tree in the United States, when the Bennett Juniper was found to be the largest in its species. Although located in the Stanislaus Forest, the Bennett Juniper is situated on private property, owned and maintained by the Save the Redwoods League by way of a donation from the previous landowner, Joe Martin.
With only four percent of the ancient redwood forest still in existence today, it is the goal of organizations such as Save the Redwoods League to try to keep these trees protected. Since its formation in 1918, the League has purchased and protected over 176,000 acres of ancient forestland throughout the Western United States.
Joe Martin donated the tree site and three-acres surrounding it to the Nature Conservancy in 1978. The responsibility of protecting the Bennett Juniper has since been passed on to the Save the Redwoods League. In 1988, Ken Brunges was hired to act as caretaker of the tree and immediate acreage surrounding the tree. Ken moved to Tuolumne County in 1975. He has served continuously since being hired, hosting visitors in-season. He camps out close to the tree in a tent five days a week, four and one-half months each year.
GPS Coordinates: N38° 18.34' W119° 47.52'