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Coastal Redwood Trees: What Should You Know?

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The coastal redwood is a tree of many names. For instance, we also know the coastal redwood as the coast redwood and the California redwood. The tree is foreboding in height and girth. For this reason, it is a popular tree and known all over the world. Often you can find them as a backdrop in movies and photographs. Its popularity has created a fan base where people will travel to the Redwood National Park to see these colossal giants. You will recognize the coastal redwood by its bark, which has a beautiful red hue. The canopy of the tree grows near the top, exposing a large trunk without branches. That is to say, these characteristics give a unique and wondrous sight in a forest of coastal redwoods.

So How Many Kinds of Coastal Redwood Trees are There?

The coastal redwood, officially known as Sequoia sempervirens, is the lone living species in its genus. There were once several trees in the Sequoia genus, but we can only find the evidence of the others in fossils. As a matter of fact, fossil records show that the Sequoia genus once spread across the world from the Western United States to China. However, today the coastal redwood stands alone. They are only in Northern California and Southern Oregon in the United States. The Sequoia genus is part of the cypress family known as Cupressaceae. Notably, the characteristics of the cypress family are:

  • Conifer (produces cones)
  • Orange-brown to red-brown bark
  • Smooth bark that grows vertically

The Sequoia genus is ancient. Researchers have found evidence and fossils dating them back to the Middle Jurassic period in China. By the time the world had entered the Cretaceous period, we could find evidence of the Sequoia in Europe, China, and Western North America. The redwoods are a species that is intolerance to harsh conditions. Eventually, the world cooled, and the territory and survival of the Sequoia genus narrowed. All things considered, the coastal redwood can still thrive in one environment. The Western United States gives the trees the significant rainfall it needs and the mild seasons it requires. In fact, the fog of the Pacific coast shields these trees from the summer droughts. This creates a delicate ecosystem for the species to flourish.

How Large do Coastal Redwood Trees Grow?

The most notable feature of the coastal redwood is the immense size to which it can grow. In fact, the coastal redwood is also a fast grower, climbing as fast as two to three feet a year in ideal environments. However, the coastal redwood is a sensitive tree and any disruption, such as a lower rainfall or cooler temperatures, can stunt its growth to an inch a year. The redwoods literally lean on each other for support as they grow. The roots are shallow but can grow outward in a radius of 100 feet. They will weave around the other coastal redwood roots to fortify themselves against all kinds of foul weather. 

These mighty trees can grow to reach 350 feet. The canopy itself is not expansive. In other words, there are no far-reaching branches growing from a redwood trunk. The diameter of the trunks commonly reaches 24 feet. Photographs of cars driving through tunnels in the trunks circulate the internet. In addition, they estimate coastal redwoods to weigh over 1 million pounds.

What Does a Coastal Redwood Tree Look Like?

The coastal redwood has a unique and prominent look. Today, many of them stand at a dominating height. The bark is reddish brown and grows vertically. On some of the older trees, the bark can be almost 12 inches thick. If you were to peel it, it would come off in long vertical strips. As shown above, the coastal redwood is a conifer. With this, the trees grow needles which can withstand the scorching sun of Northern California. The needles at the apex of the coastal redwoods have a hard exterior to aid in this protection. Comparatively to all conifers, the coastal redwood produces pinecones. In contrast to the gigantic size of the tree, the cones produced are small. The pinecones only grow to an inch in size. 

Coastal redwoods grow in clusters. The saplings grow along the base and roots of the parent trees to collect nutrients. For this reason, the trees grow in circular patterns, sometimes known as fairy rings.

Where Can I Find a Coastal Redwood Tree?

Generally speaking, you will need to plan a trip to the Western United States to visit these trees. Coastal redwoods are only in Northern to Central California and some parts of Southern Oregon. Because of their delicate nature, they can only grow within 50 miles of the coast. Certainly, the easiest way to see a coastal redwood is to visit a national or state park. The Redwood National Park and the Sequoia National Park boast these beasts. We visit both parks to glimpse the coastal redwoods almost as much as Yellowstone National Park to see Old Faithful.

How Long Can a Coastal Redwood Tree Live?

Despite its sensitivity, the coastal redwood can live for many, many years in the correct environment. Scientists believe that most coastal redwoods will live for approximately 2000 years. In fact, the oldest coastal redwood is not truly living at all. The oldest coastal redwood is 2500 years old. You can find it at the Grove of Titans, in the Jedidiah Smith Redwoods State Park. However, the coastal redwood was subject to significant logging because of its lumber’s strong characteristics. This has led to a reduction in coastal redwoods founds. Despite this over-logging, the trees are protected in many national parks and we have made efforts to re-build the redwood population in the United States.

Can I Grow a Coastal Redwood Tree?

The coastal redwood needs a specific environment to thrive truly. While we could replicate this environment in other parts of the world, the trees have found a suitable home in the Western United States. If you can provide your sapling with ample water, sunlight, mild climate, and even fog, you could grow a coastal redwood.

Other countries have attempted to grow coastal redwoods throughout the world and seen some success. In fact, some of these saplings have grown for over 200 years ago. Climate change is a great threat to the coastal redwood due to its delicate constitution.

However, efforts are now being made to grow the redwood population in the Western United States. With laws protecting them, they are even expanding on their own. The quick growth of the coastal redwood is a significant advantage to building a population.

It is Time to BRANCH out into some fun tree facts!

  • The tallest coastal redwood stands at 380 feet.
  • The widest coastal redwood is 29 feet wide.
  • There are 380,000 acres of protected woodlands for coastal redwoods..
  • You can drive a car through the trunk of different redwoods in the national parks..

The tallest coastal redwood stands at 380 feet.

The widest coastal redwood is 29 feet wide.

There are 380,000 acres of protected woodlands for coastal redwoods.

You can drive a car through the trunk of different redwoods in the national parks.

What are Some Uses for Coastal Redwood Trees?

Natural Uses

Together with so many trees, we have used the coastal redwood throughout history for several ailments. We can make saps and teas from the leaves and bark to treat earaches, indigestion, and even gum pain. Also, the bark is quite soft and can be peeled off easily from the tree without damaging the growth. The bark is excellent for insulation and can even turn into paper. Many species call a coastal redwood home. Notably, you can find the banana slug living on the coastal redwood. Given that the coastal redwood is so stately, the woodlands attract hundreds of thousands of visitors every year to see their immense size.

Artistic Uses

Coastal redwoods are movie stars. In the event that the director is looking to have an extra-terrestrial or supernatural landscape, the coastal redwood forests are the perfect choice. Famous movies starring coastal redwoods include Jurassic Park, E.T., Star Wars, and Planet of the Apes. Coastal redwoods feature in artwork and literature as well. Certainly, the most famous coastal redwood in literature is the leading character in The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.

Residential/Commercial Uses

The lumber of the coastal redwood is highly sought after. In particular, the wood from a coastal redwood is quite weather resistant. It shows strong resistance to water, rot, insects, and fire destruction. Because of the desirability of such lumber, the coastal redwood was severely over logged. We use coastal redwood lumber for decks and outdoor furniture. Native Californians will only use felled trees for lumber so that the living population does not falter. While building the railroad tracks throughout California, they used coastal redwood lumber almost exclusively for the railroad ties. Overall, the timber is versatile and useful in all construction applications, and the wood is also beautiful enough to be used as decoration and furniture.

 Wrap Up

The coastal redwood is a dominating force once found all over China, Europe, and the Western United States. However, today, the coastal redwood can only found in the Western United States within 50 miles of the coast. It is the only species left in the Sequoia family. The coastal redwood is a long living tree, ultimately reaching close to 2000 years in age. If you are interested in growing your own coastal redwood, environment is very important. It demands a delicate ecosystem to thrive. While we have reduced the coastal redwood population over the centuries, the species is still thriving. You can even visit large forests of them in California and Southern Oregon.

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