11 Facts About California Coastal Redwoods, The Tallest Trees In The World
California's coastal Redwoods are a site to see. Having never been to northern California before, we have been in for a real treat nestling our RV in a forest of beautiful Redwoods and greenery. We like to refer to the area we are in, in Gualala, CA, as a rainforest, or even a Jurassic jungle, full of ferns and thick trees and green shrubs. It's unlike anywhere we have ever been before and is a perfect springtime experience hearing the wind rustle the tops of the trees and the birds sing through the area by the river. The Redwoods have a mystical vibe about them, one that lures you in and leaves you speechless.
Back before the 1850's, coastal Redwoods stretched some 2 MILLION acres of California coast, from south of Big Sur and well over the Oregon border. The Redwoods are members of the Sequoioideae subfamily of cypress trees, and are cousins to the infamous giant Sequoia trees. Redwoods and Sequoia trees are also the tallest and largest trees in the WORLD.
For many thousands of years people lived peacefully with the trees, understanding how important they are and the unique forest ecosystem they foster. But then the gold rush happened and the arrival of thousands of new gold seekers started in 1849, dooming the Redwoods. The beautiful trees were logged into near extinction as people had to keep up for the demand of lumber, and today only 5% of the original growth of coastal Redwood forest remains. This means there is fewer than 100,000 acres dotted along the California coast from what was over 2 million acres.
This massive loss of trees just breaks my heart and is hard to even imagine how people could recklessly do this without a care in the world of how it impacts nature and the ecosystems of life. But money will always do that to the human population... causing them to go blind with greed and selfishness.
These Redwood trees are some of the most spectacular I have ever seen. I'd love to share more about them to spread awareness and understanding into what life is like in the Redwood supertrees.
11 Facts About California Coastal Redwoods, The Tallest Trees In The World
1. Up, up, up and away!
Soaring to heights of more than 300 feet, they can get so tall that the tops of them are completely out of sight. The tallest known Redwood is a beauty by the name of Hyperion, discovered in 2006, standing at 380 feet tall. There are a few other majestic towers worth mentioning too, with Helios at 374.3 feet, Icarus at 371.2 feet, and Daedalus at 363.4 feet. Thankfully the locations of these trees remains a secret to protect them from vandalism and inconsiderate human species!
2. Intertwining roots
The roots of the Redwoods only grow about six to twelve feet deep, relatively shallow considering their sheer sizes. But the roots also grow more horizontal than they do vertical, reaching about 100 feet across. Roots from one tree will grow together with other trees to interlock and help to prop each other up. For these reasons you can not grow just one individual Redwood, you must grow them together so their roots can connect and ensure they all succeed. The trees also cycle nutrients amongst each other to help aid in each other's growth.
3. Sipping on fog
Redwoods also collect moisture from the fog to share with the shorter trees, and barks of the trees that are burnt, to help cycle nutrients to the bottoms of the tree groves. It is a temperate area where the coastal Redwoods live and rain provides them water during the winter, but in the summer they more heavily rely on the fog for moisture. Fog can account for more than 40% of the moisture intake the trees get. Specifically in the area we are in, Gualala, the summer months just don't foster enough rainfall compared to the winter months where it rains so much the Gualala River basin oftentimes floods to high levels. When the Redwoods are collecting fog, it will condense on their needles and form into droplets, that they then absorb into the tree and shed to the ground to water the forest floor.
4. Ancient wonders
Coastal Redwoods are among the oldest living organisms in the WORLD. They have been traced to live for more than 2,000 years, meaning some of these beauties were even alive during the Roman Empire! The oldest living Redwood known has been calculated to be 2,200 years old. However nowadays, aside from a few pockets of old growth, most of the coastal Redwoods left in the forests appear to be young growth.
Specifically here in Gualala, all of the Redwoods are young growth as most of the mature growth trees were logged many years ago.
5. Wonder communities in the sky
Somehow, mats of soil will appear on the upper branches of the Redwood trees canopies allowing them to support other plants, and whole communities of worms, insects, salamanders, and mammals. Plants will literally grow on other plants and some of the other trees documented to grow on the Redwoods are Sitka Spruce, Douglas Fire, Western Hemlock, and California Bay Laurel. Sometimes when other trees grow out of Redwoods they can still reach astonishing heights of 40 feet!
6. The cutest pine cones you will ever see
At first I had to look closer at what the small brown cones on the forest floor were, and after realizing they were pinecones I was then pondering where on earth they came from! There was no way it seemed fitting that these massive trees were producing the smallest, cutest pine cones I had ever seen. Could it be? It is! Redwoods bear diminutive cones that are literally just an inch in length. The forest floor is full of them and they are a cute accessory to a towering forest.
7. Superheroes battling climate change
We already know that trees are extremely important in fighting climate change because they store carbon dioxide. But according to research studies, coastal Redwoods store more CO2 than any other forest in the world, holding 2,600 metric tons of carbon per hectare (2.4 acres). That is MORE than double the absorption rate of Pacific Northwest conifer trees or Australia's eucalyptus forests. These trees are single handedly working to save the world right now and it's important we also do what we can to protect them.
8. How about that thick skin
The Redwoods are named after the deep rosy hue of their surface, but the bark is even more impressive beyond its color. Coming in at up to 12 whole inches thick, the bark allows the trees to generally survive most forest fires, which are still important to create room for new seedlings to grow. There are tannins in the bark that do a good job at fending off damaging insects too, thus further protecting the bark and the trees from anything invasive.
9. They were previously international
You can now only find pockets of coastal Redwoods on the Pacific coast of California and into Oregon and Washington, but in the ancient years they had a much wider habitat on the globe. You could have previously found Redwoods along the coasts of Europe and Asia too!
10. Ghost helpers
In some areas of coastal Redwoods there are around 400 smaller Redwoods that are completely stripped of their colors. Researches and scientists have been mostly stumped by this (no pun intended) but have come to a likely conclusion of what might be going on. These so called "ghost Redwoods" were found to be full of copper, nickel, cadmium, and other noxious metals. Researchers believe these trees were in a symbiotic relationship with their healthy neighbors, and thus acting as a reservoir for poison in exchange for the sugar they need to survive.
11. Cathedral trees
A Cathedral Tree (also known as a fairy ring) will form after the main trunk becomes damaged and then several other basal sprouts will grow in a ringlike pattern around it. Redwoods are unique cone-bearing trees because they can reproduce via burls as well as seeds. These Cathedral rings are a sight to see and there is even one found in Gualala where we are staying. From a distance it looks like one massive trunk until you come closer and see each individual tree towering out from the ring. The first time we encountered this I filmed my reaction as they appeared and was quite stunned by their magic.
And for more doses of inspiration and fun, check out this article about a man that is cloning old growth Redwoods and planting them in safe places.
Having now experienced the Redwoods in all their marvel, I will forever hold a strong appreciation and understanding for them and their protection. The Redwood forest is unlike any other place I have ever stayed before and almost represents its own planet. I can't even begin to express how grateful I am to spend the summer here getting to know the trees and the wildlife they bring with them. A truly special place in the United States.
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