The General Sherman, a giant sequoia in California’s southern Sierra Nevada, is as wide as a three-lane highway, nearly as tall as the Statue of Liberty, and older than Christ. It’s the champion of big trees, recognized as such for decades by American Forests, a nonprofit that has been ranking the world’s biggest trees since 1940.

Yet, according to some tree experts, Sherman’s top ranking should come with an asterisk. It all depends on how you define biggest.

Sherman doesn’t rise nearly as high as the world’s tallest trees, but it maintains impressive girth in its upper reaches. For that reason, according to Stephen C. Sillett, a leading redwood expert at Humboldt State University, it’s the undisputed champ in total biomass, estimated at 52,500 cubic feet — enough to fill about 20 typical swimming pools.

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