Coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) are the tallest living things on our planet, growing 300-350 feet tall and 16-18 feet across, with record specimens soaring 360 feet.
Redwood trees have been around for more than 240 million years. They were present on earth at the same time as the dinosaur! The oldest verified living redwood is at least 2,200 years of age, but foresters believe that some may be much older. At one point in history redwoods could be found throughout the northern hemisphere. Today, the coast redwood naturally achieves its majestic heights and lush groves only in one place in the world — along the Pacific coast from southern Oregon to Big Sur, just south of Monterey Bay.
The coast redwoods have only two close relatives: the shorter but more massive giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum), which grows only in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, and the dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), much smaller in comparison at 115 feet in height, which is found native only in a remote area of central China.
The coast redwoods thrive on, and indeed require, the heavy fogs that are normal daily occurrences along the coast. These 300 foot plus tall giants actually pull moisture into their needles at the tops of the tree where the circulation system of the tree can’t pump to. The 50-60 degree average temperatures of the area is also important to the life cycle of these trees. But they will grow about anywhere, as evidenced by photos people have taken of redwoods growing in such disparate places as Fresno California, Waycross Georgia, Florida and even one hardy voyager in Phoenix Arizona! But they will never attain their true size and stature without the coastal fogs and temperatures that nurture them.
Coast redwoods reproduce by stump sprouting. This gives them a great reproductive advantage over species that reproduce only by seeds. ‘Cathedral’ or family groups of trees are trees that have grown up from the living remains of the stump of a fallen redwood, and since they grew out of the perimeter, they are organized in a circle. If you looked at the genetic information in a cell of each of these trees, you would find that they were identical to each other and to the stump they sprang from. About 80% of today’s present trees are cloned in this way! Some of those trees out there could be the last in a 20,000 or 30,000 year (or more) line of the SAME tree reproducing itself over and over again! Genetically, they are the same tree that grew from a seed all those centuries ago!
- A typical redwood forest contains more biomass per square foot than ANY other area on earth, and that includes the Amazonian rain forests.
- The bark of a coastal redwood is very thick, as much as a foot in places. It exhibits an unusual property when exposed to fire – it chars into a heat shield.
- The chemical composition of the tree itself is apparently distasteful or even poisonous to normal tree pests like termites and ants. That is why it was used as the first layer of boards in a wall, termites and carpenter ants won’t burrow into it.
- In the 30’s to the early 60’s redwood was used as a separator between the plates of electrolytic (auto, truck and airplane) batteries. The wood could withstand the battery acid and still retain its shape.
- Redwood is very resistant to water associated rot. It is not uncommon to drill a well in a creek bed in this area and end up drilling right through a redwood log that may have been buried there for thousands of years. The wood comes out of the pipe sound and in good shape.
The coast redwoods of the Santa Cruz Mountains provide a place for solace and reflection for people, and especially for the eight million people who live in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Cottage is a great place to come and check out these towering beauties.
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Published by Amy on: Jul 27, 2012