Coast Redwood

Leonard and I visited the redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) more often than usual this year. I never tire of hiking among these magnificent trees.

Although there are as many as 40 fossil forms of redwoods distributed throughout North America, currently there is only one species of redwood. S sempervirens is commonly called coast redwood, California redwood and coastal sequoia, among other names.

Considered the tallest tree in the world, the coast redwood typically grows between 200 and 300 feet in height and normally lives between 1,000 and 1,500 years. One redwood was determined to be 2,200 years old. One cannot help but feel awe standing nest to one of these ancient giants.

Coast redwoods grow in coastal coniferous forests from Curry County Oregon south to Monterey County California between sea level and 3,000 feet. These members of the Cypress Family require heavy rain, fog drip, summer soil moisture – conditions that are constantly damp all year. Intolerant of salt-laden ocean breezes, redwoods are rarely found adjacent to the ocean but live slightly inland. Although redwoods grow best in full sunlight, they are shade tolerant. Infrequently white or albino redwoods are reported in  deep shade.

Coast redwoods have a conical crown shape. The bark is fibrous, deeply furrowed, thick, and corky. The outer cortex is reddish-brown and 3 inches to 1 foot thick. The thin inner integument is cinnamon.

The leaves (needles) of coast redwoods are linear, however, leaves in the upper canopy, particularly on  cone-bearing branches, can be awl-shaped. The needles are pointed and have no petioles (stalks). Dark green above, there are two bands of stomatal bloom on the undersides of the needles. Although the needles appear to be arranged all in one plane as flat sprays, the arrangement is actually spiral. In the shade the needles twist to lie flat in order to more efficiently capture sunlight.

The unisexual flowers appear from buds formed the previous autumn. The male flowers occur in axils of upper leaves while female flowers are terminal on twigs. The cones are barrel-shaped, brown and persistent. The thick, woody cone scales are enlarged at the outer end and bear large resin glands. The viability of the ovoid, light brown, winged seeds is low.

The genus name, Sequoia, honors George Guess (1770? – 1843). The son of a British merchant and Cherokee woman, Guess (also Gist) was known as Sequoiah or Sequoyah. He was the inventor and publisher of the Cherokee alphabet. Sempervirens, the species designation,  means evergreen or everlasting in reference to its long life span.

These coast redwoods were photographed along the Simpson Reed Grove Trail in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, Del Norte County CA.

Now I would love to find an albino coast redwood.

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1 Response to Coast Redwood

  1. tonytomeo says:

    The coastal redwood is the only specie of Sequoia; but there are two other redwoods. Sequoiadendron gigantea is the giant redwood of the Sierra Nevada, and the biggest tree in the world. Metasequoia glyptostroboides is the deciduous dawn redwood from China, and the only redwood that is not native to California. We have all three at work, which happens to be in the coastal redwood forests. There also happens to be an albino redwood here. I have tried unsuccessfully to graft albino stems onto other trees. They are very weak. Coastal redwood can grow right down to the beach, but gets disfigured and stunted by the wind, and can of course look shabby where exposed to salt spray. I write about them frequently because they are so prominent here. I just wrote about them within the context of clearance pruning early this morning. I also mentioned the albino redwood a while back.

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