Sempervirens – the scientific species name for coastal redwoods means everlasting. There is fossil evidence that redwoods were once found almost world wide, but currently they are only found on the California coast from the southwestern corner of Oregon to about Big Sur and only about 50 miles inland. These are some of the oldest trees in the world with a life span up to 2,000 years and are the tallest “known” trees on earth.
Most of the trees you see now are between 500 and 1,000 years old on average. And they easily reach over 300 ft tall with the tallest about 380 ft. They are fast growing trees and may reach great heights in the first 50 years of growing. After this their energy is spend adding girth so the height does not really speak to the trees age its circumference does. Kind of hard to picture the height but these may give you an idea.
In this picture (believe it or not) shows normal sized trees with the redwoods towering above. Yes what looks like bushes along the river are normal full sized trees!!!
The girth is easy to photograph, but with nothing to compare them to it is difficult to see exactly how big they are.
But their canopy is the first thing you notice when you drive or walk into a grove. Although their limbs don’t start until over 100 ft up, the canopy is very thick. Almost like twilight under there where little sunlight comes thru. There are large openings in the canopy created when a tree is lost, but these close up in just a few years.
These are very resilient trees, and they have to be here. Although they produce thousands of cones which produce up to 200 seeds per cone – possibly 200,000 seeds per tree – seeds rarely produce another tree. Most are reproduced directly from an existing tree. Many of these trees have burls – massive clusters of bud material that grow into swollen bumpy knobs.
These burls remain inactive until the tree is stressed either by low rainfall, fire or when the tree is toppled after this stress the burls sprout and grow new trees. Many grow right out of the old stump or on the side of an existing tree.
Some redwoods also grow saplings around their base. As the saplings grow only the hardy survive and eventually combine with the mother tree. So many are two or more trucks with a single combined base. When the oldest tree falls or dies, a ring of other maturing trees remains. This one has a hollow and a smaller tree adjoining it notice the smaller trunk on the right.
Winter rains can saturate the earth and the winds in turn may cause these trees and others to fall. They have shallow roots that intertwine with their neighbors, this helps to stabilize the trees. But when one breaks free it will usually lean on to others nearby. The forests are dense and the extreme height does not let them fall freely. In 1964 they had an extremely wet winter and several of the ancient trees in Humboldt Redwood State Park fell. They say that one in particular created a seismic event detectable miles away. Here are some of the root bases of these trees, the size is mind boggling.
You don’t really see many of these root bases, but you do see a lot of trees that have been topped by the wind or burnt in a forest fire. Amazingly most survive the fires. The literature we read said that their protective bark can be as much as a foot thick, but we saw no evidence of that. The many cross sections we saw the bark was more like 4-5 inches thick?? Either way, the bark helps protect them from insects and fires. When one or many different fires over the years burns thru the bark it begins to burn the inner softer heart wood and creates a hollow. These hollows can be small enough to shelter a small animal or large enough for several men to occupy. Some are so burned that it amazed us that the tree was still growing.
Many of the tops of the redwoods appear dead while the rest of the tree is thriving. This can occur when there are multiple years of drought. It is hard enough for the tree to get water up over 300 feet, but with a reduced supply it is even harder. There are other factors also.
This tree fell and landed across another trunk, amazing how it splintered. Looks like part of a lumber yard.
These are some amazing trees and are protected in various state and national parks. Our first visit to the trees was in Humboldt Redwood State Park and the Avenue of the Giants. This is a very impressive state park with no fee that protects around 50,000 acres. The 31-mile scenic drive parallels Hwy 101 and is well worth the diversion. There were also several short (or long your choice) hikes with informative signs and brochures. Further north is the National and State Redwood Park several state parks were created in the 1920s and in 1968 the National park was dedicated by Lady Bird Johnson. Currently the National and State park work in conjunction with each other providing protection for almost 40,000 acres. We enjoyed both, but thought that Humboldt was our favorite possibly because it was our first??
One of the best things about the National Park was the abundance of rhododendron and they were in full bloom. Just beautiful.
Peace Love and Save the Trees!!!