01/07/14

 

Walking Among Giants
Sequoia sempervirens is the sole living species of the genus Sequoia in the cypress family Cupressaceae (formerly treated in Taxodiaceae). Common names include coast redwood, California redwood, and giant redwood. It is an evergreen, long-lived, monoecious tree living 1200 – 1800 years or more. This species includes the tallest trees on Earth, reaching up to 379 feet (115.5 m) in height (without the roots) and up to 26 feet (7.9 m) diameter at breast height. Before commercial logging and clearing began by the 1850s, this massive tree occurred naturally in an estimated 2,100,000 acres (8,500 km2) along much of coastal California (excluding southern California where rainfall is not abundant enough) and the southwestern corner of coastal Oregon within the United States.
The name sequoia sometimes refers to the subfamily Sequoioideae, which includes S. sempervirens along with Sequoiadendron (giant sequoia) and Metasequoia (dawn redwood). On its own, the term redwood usually refers to the coast redwood, which is covered in this article, and not to the other two species
There is nothing more awesome or awe-inspiring as walking in and around the redwood giants. It a spectacle of nature unequaled in other parts of our wonderful country.
Coast redwoods occupy a narrow strip of land approximately 750 km (470 miles) in length and 8–75 km (5–47 miles) in width along the Pacific coast of North America; from the most southerly grove in Monterey County, California to groves that exist in extreme southwestern Oregon. The elevation range is mostly from 30–750 metres (98–2,460 ft), occasionally down to sea level and up to 920 m (about 3,000 feet) (Farjon 2005). They usually grow in the mountains where there is more precipitation from the incoming moisture off the ocean. The tallest and oldest trees are found in deep valleys and gullies, where year-round streams can flow, and fog drip is regular. The trees above the fog layer, above about 700 metres (2,300 ft), are shorter and smaller due to the drier, windier, and colder conditions. In addition, tanoak, pine and Douglas-fir often crowd out redwoods at these elevations. Few redwoods grow close to the ocean, due to intense salt spray, sand and wind. Condensation from coastal fog accounts for a considerable part of the trees' water needs
   
The northern boundary of its range is marked by two groves on the Chetco River on the western fringe of the Klamath Mountains, 25 km (15 miles) north of the California-Oregon border. The largest (and tallest) populations are in Redwood National and State Parks (Del Norte and Humboldt Counties) and Humboldt Redwoods State Park (Humboldt County, California), with the majority located in the much larger Humboldt County. The southern boundary of its range is the Los Padres National Forest's Silver Peak Wilderness in the Santa Lucia Mountains of the Big Sur area of Monterey County, California. The southernmost grove is in the Southern Redwood Botanical Area, just north of the national forest's Salmon Creek trailhead
   

 

 

 

 
 

The thick, tannin-rich bark, combined with foliage that starts high above the ground provides good protection from both fire and insect damage, contributing to the coast redwood's longevity. The oldest known coast redwood is about 2,200 years old; many others in the wild exceed 600 years. The numerous claims of older trees are incorrect. Because of their seemingly timeless lifespan, coast redwoods were deemed the "everlasting redwood" at the turn of the century; in Latin, "sempervirens" means "ever green" or "everlasting". Redwood must successfully endure fire in order to attain such great ages and thus it is perhaps not surprising that this species has many fire-resistant characteristics. In addition, fires appear to actually benefit redwood by causing substantial mortality in competing species while having only minor effects on redwood. One recent study, the first to compare post-wildfire survival and regeneration of redwood and associated species, concluded that fires of all severity increase the relative abundance of redwood and that higher severity fires provide the greatest benefit.

This native area provides a unique environment with heavy seasonal rains (2,500 millimetres (98 in) annually). Cool coastal air and fog drip keep this forest consistently damp year round. Several factors, including the heavy rainfall, create a soil with fewer nutrients than the trees need, causing the trees to depend heavily on the entire biotic community of the forest, and complete recycling of the trees when dead. This forest community includes Coast Douglas-fir, Western Hemlock, Tanoak, Pacific Madrone, and other trees along with a wide variety of ferns, Redwood sorrel, mosses and mushrooms. Redwood forests provide habitat for a variety of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Old growth redwood stands provide habitat for the federally threatened Spotted Owl and the California-endangered Marbled Murrelet.

Trees over 60 m (200 ft) are common, and many are over 90 m (300 ft). The current tallest tree is Hyperion, measuring at 115.61 m (379.3 ft). The tree was discovered in Redwood National Park during Summer 2006 by Chris Atkins and Michael Taylor and has been measured as the world's tallest living organism. The previous record holder was the Stratosphere Giant in the Humboldt Redwoods State Park, at 112.83 m, last measured in 2004 (was 112.34 m in Aug 2000 and 112.56 m in 2002). Until it fell in March 1991, the "Dyerville Giant" was the record holder. It too stood in Humboldt Redwoods State Park; it was 113.4 metres high and estimated to be 1,600 years old.
There are 41 measured living trees more than 110 metres (360.9 ft) tall. There are 178 measured trees that are more than 106.7 metres (350.1 ft) tall. Preliminary analysis of LiDAR data indicates there are hundreds of additional trees in excess of 106 metres (347.8 ft) previously unknown.
A tree claimed to be 115.86 metres (380.1 ft) was cut down in 1914. A tree claimed to be 129.26 metres (424 ft) was felled in November 1886 by the Elk River Mill and Lumber Co. at the south fork of Elk river in Humboldt County, yielding 79,736 marketable board feet from 21 cuts.
 

Although coast redwoods are currently the world's tallest trees, it is possible that Australian mountain ash and Douglas-fir trees were taller—exceeding 400 feet (120 m)—before the commercial logging of the 19th and 20th centuries. However, there is fairly solid evidence that before logging coast redwoods were the world's largest trees, with specimens measured at over 55,000 cubic feet (1,600 m3).
The theoretical maximum potential height of coast redwoods is limited to between 122 to 130 metres (400 to 427 ft), due to gravity and the friction between water and the vessels through which it flows.
The largest coast redwood is the "Lost Monarch", with an estimated volume of 42,500 cubic feet (1,203 m3); it is 320 feet (98 m) tall with a diameter of 26 feet (7.9 m) at breast high (DBH). It is located in the Grove of Titans. Among current living trees there are only 6 known giant sequoias that are larger; these are shorter, but have thicker trunks overall, giving the largest giant sequoia, General Sherman, a volume of 1,487 cubic metres (52,513 cu ft), making it the world's largest known tree. A redwood cut down in 1926 had a claimed volume of 1,794 cubic metres (63,355 cu ft), but this was not verified.
About fifty albino redwoods (mutant individuals that cannot manufacture chlorophyll) are known to exist, reaching heights of up to 20 metres (66 ft). These trees survive as parasites, obtaining food by grafting their root systems with those of normal trees. While similar mutations occur sporadically in other conifers, no cases are known of such individuals surviving to maturity in any other conifer species.

Coast redwood reproduces both sexually by seed and asexually by sprouting of buds, layering, or lignotubers. Seed production begins at 10–15 years of age, and large seed crops occur frequently, but viability of the seed is low, typically well below 15%.[9] The low viability may discourage seed predators, which do not want to waste time sorting chaff (empty seeds) from edible seeds. The winged seeds are small and light, weighing 3.3–5 mg (200-300 seeds/g; 5,600-8,500/ounce). The wings are not effective for wide dispersal, and seeds are dispersed by wind an average of only 60–120 m (200–400 feet) from the parent tree. Growth of seedlings is very fast, with young trees known to reach 20 m (65 ft) tall in 20 years.
Coast redwoods can also reproduce asexually by layering or sprouting from the root crown, stump, or even fallen branches; if a tree falls over, it will regenerate a row of new trees along the trunk. This is the reason for many trees naturally growing in a straight line. Sprouts originate from dormant or adventitious buds at or under the surface of the bark. The dormant sprouts are stimulated when the main adult stem gets damaged or starts to die. Many sprouts spontaneously erupt and develop around the circumference of the tree trunk. Within a short period after sprouting, each sprout will develop its own root system, with the dominant sprouts forming a ring of trees around the parent root crown or stump. This ring of trees is called a "fairy ring". Sprouts can achieve heights of 2.3 m (8 ft) in a single growing season.
Redwoods may also reproduce using burls. A burl is a woody lignotuber that commonly appears on a redwood tree below the soil line, though when above usually within 3 metres (9.8 ft) of the soil. Burls are capable of sprouting into new trees when detached from the parent tree though exactly how this happens is yet to be studied. Shoot clones commonly sprout from burls and are often turned into decorative hedges when found in suburbia.
The species is very tolerant of flooding and flood deposits the roots rapidly growing into thick silt deposits after floods.

 

Coast redwoods have inspired human beings since the dawn of time. Celebrated the world over, redwoods stretch from Humboldt County’s vast alluvial plains to the fog shrouded valleys of the Big Sur Coast. The mystique of these ancient forests will draw you in.

 

This site was last updated 04/30/12 s

 

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