How Do You Transplant a Giant Sequoia? Very Carefully

Giant Sequoia are the world's largest trees. (Photo: Nick Fox/Shutterstock)

For the first time in more than a century, a towering sequoia in Boise, Idaho, has a new view of the world. Crews for Environmental Design, a company that specializes in transplanting mature trees, completed the nearly 12-hour move of the historic 100-foot sequoia on June 25. The 800,000 pound specimen, donated as a seedling by the late naturalist John Muir in 1912, was moved two blocks to make way for the expansion of a hospital.

Anita Kissée, a spokeswoman for St. Luke's Health System, revealed that the hospital paid about $300,000 to relocate what's believed to be the largest sequoia in Idaho.

"We understand the importance of this tree to this community," Kissée told the AP. "Cutting it down was never even an option."

As shown in the timelapse below of the delicate relocation effort, the engineering behind moving a 10-story-tall tree involves inflatable rolling tubes and a lot of patience. For some time, the tree took center stage on Fort Street as crews underestimated the hole necessary to accommodate the transport tubes and worked furiously to widen it. By 11:15 a.m. Sunday morning, however, all was well and the tree was safely relocated in its new home in Fort Boise Park.

Before transplanting, soil was analyzed at both the original and new sites to make sure conditions were similar for the sequoia to thrive. The original soil from around the tree's roots will also be used as fill in the new site.

According to David Cox, who owns Environmental Design, these careful steps and others give the tree a roughly 95 percent chance of survival after transplant.

"I would say three- to five-hundred years at least," Cox said of the sequoia's expected life span. "It's still a young tree."