Prior to 1850, coastal redwoods were rampant along two million acres of the California coast. Their homeland stretched from south of Big Sur to the Oregon border. One of the three members of the sequoia family (a subfamily of the cypress trees, the coast redwoods and their cousins), the giant sequoias have been named the tallest and largest trees in the world. For hundreds of generations have the people of the region managed to live in peace with these wondrous trees because they grasped the importance of their unique forest ecosystem. The problem that triggered it all was the gold rush: with the arrival of a small city’s worth of gold-seekers in 1849 did the redwoods see their doom. Because of the high demand for lumber, only about five percent of the original redwood trees remain. This is equivalent to 100,000 acres dotted along the coast. This loss is devastating, but all the more reason to sing their praises.
Coast redwoods are among the oldest living organisms that we know of. They can live for more than 2,000 yeas, which means that some of the trees of the California coast were alive during the Roman empire. The oldest living redwood found is around 2,200 years old, but the vast majority of today’s trees are young. This is an unfortunate truth, but environmental policymakers have taken it upon themselves to revive the species to its old days of glory.
This next fact is obvious because these trees are the tallest in the world after all, but just how tall are they? Well, they attain incredible heights of over 300 feet, so tall that their tops are invisible to the naked eye. The tallest of these insanely tall trees is a beauty called Hyperion. This giant was discovered in 2006 and stands at 380 feet in height. Other notable specimens are Icarus at 371 feet and Daedalus at 363 feet. To avoid vandalism, the trees’ locations are kept a secret.
Most incredibly, piles of soil on the upper branches of the canopy support other plants. Not only that, but whole communities of worms, salamanders, mammals and insects have made a home for themselves in the trees. Similarly, a slew of trees have been documented to have been growing on some of the coast redwoods. Some examples include the sitka spruce, the Douglas fir, and the cascara. Some of these epiphytes (plants that grow on trees) have known to reach astonishing heights of 40 feet.
The redwoods are superstars in the battle against climate change. All trees store carbon dioxide, but according to extensive research, coast redwoods store more CO2 that any other species in the world. They hold 2,600 metric tons of carbon per hectare (2.4 acres), which is twice the absorption rate of the Pacific Northwest’s conifer trees. Even Australia’s majestic eucalyptus forests don’t absorb as much CO2. In fact, in 2012, a small forest of 870 eucalyptus trees sequestered 337 tons of CO2 over the course of 8 years.
Redwoods are predictably named for the rosy pink color on their surface. That being said, the redwoods’ bark is hardly impressive just for the hue. This miracle of vegetation is up to 12 inches thick, which means the trees will likely survive forest fires. Incidentally, forest fires are beneficial to the trees because they create space for new seedlings to grow. The bark also contains tannins that do a good job at fending off parasitical insects.
Redwood trees are an incredible element of nature but are quickly disappearing. Take action to stop this from happening with Save the Redwoods.