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Redwoods Facts and History

Our Top 10 Redwood Tree Facts

Coast redwoods are truly magnificent trees that can provide clean air, home to countless plants and wildlife, and inspire awe for generations to come—if we protect the remaining redwood forests before its too late. Here are our top 10 facts about redwood trees that make them so amazing.

1. TALLEST TREE ON EARTH

Your local coast redwood tree can grow to 300 feet or more, compared to the tallest pine tree at 268 feet or the tallest tanoak at 162 feet — yet its root system is only 6 to 12 feet deep. A redwood can’t grow to be the tallest tree on earth alone. It needs the support and protection of other trees in the forest to grow tall—holding carbon and providing plant and wildlife habitat every inch of the way. Redwoods create the strength to withstand powerful winds and floods by extending their roots more than 50 feet from the trunk and living in groves where their roots can intertwine. That’s why it’s so important to protect and connect forest lands so the trees can thrive together.

2. AS OLD AS THE DINOSAURS — ALMOST

The earliest redwoods showed up on Earth shortly after the dinosaurs – and before flowers, birds, spiders… and, of course, humans. Redwoods have been around for about 240 million years, and in California for at least 20 million years, compared to about 200,000 years for “modern” humans. However, in just the last 150 years, human impacts have reduced the number of these ancient trees to only 5% of their former number through clear-cut logging and development.

3. SEE 2,000-YEAR-OLD REDWOODS HERE

Officially, the oldest living coast redwood is at least 2,200 years old, but foresters believe some coast redwoods may be much older.

4. ANCIENT OLD-GROWTH – AND ASPIRING YOUNGSTERS

Most of the redwoods we see are, “second-growth”, about 50-150 years old. That’s equivalent to about age 2-6 in human years! Coast redwoods can grow 100 feet in their first 50 years, so they quickly look like grown-ups. So, when you walk or ride through the Santa Cruz Mountains, you are in a nursery of young redwoods that, if protected, can live for 2,000 years and cleaning carbon from the air, providing habitat for wildlife, and inspiring people for generations to come.

5. LAST NATURAL HABITAT

Although coast redwoods have been established by people in other places of the world like New Zealand, the oldest coast redwood forests have remained in their natural habitat right here on the Pacific coast, from Big Sur to southern Oregon for 20 million years. The coastal fog in their natural habitat helps redwoods stay hydrated and healthy so they can reach their potential as the tallest trees on the planet. Earlier in the Earth’s history, redwoods had a much wider range, including western North America and the coasts of Europe and Asia.

6. LATIN OR ENGLISH: SEMPER-WHO?

The familiar local redwood tree has an official Latin name, Sequoia sempervirens. That’s why the local nonprofit organization working to protect, expand and care for the local redwood forests is called “Sempervirens Fund.”

7. CLIMATE CHANGE HEROES

Trees are crucial to maintaining a stable, human-friendly climate. Studies show that coast redwoods capture more carbon dioxide (CO2) from our cars, trucks and power plants than any other tree on Earth. As the climate changes, the redwood forests in the Santa Cruz Mountains are one of very few places that can provide a refuge for local plants and animals to survive, because the area has many microclimates, is cooled by coastal summertime fog and is still largely unpaved.

8. WILD ANIMALS THRIVE HERE

Wild, endangered creatures like mountain lions, Coho salmon and marbled murrelet depend on the local redwood forests. They need large, connected areas of diverse habitat to thrive among us humans.

9. STURDY SURVIVORS

Redwoods live so long – and are treasured by humans for building – because they are extremely resistant to insects, fire and rot. At one time, San Francisco’s building codes required redwood lumber to be used in the foundations of new structures. Just a redwood’s bark can be one foot thick and it contains tannin which protects the tree from fire, insects, fungus and diseases.

10. WE CAN ALL HELP THE FOREST RECOVER — AND HELP US THRIVE

Today, we have a rare chance to re-establish the once-vast and vibrant local redwood forest into a magnificent, life-giving world between Silicon Valley and the Pacific Ocean. With a little help from us to get started, the redwood forest can recover from the massive logging and fragmentation that took place during the last 150 years. It will take care of itself – and all the wild animals, plants and us – for thousands and even millions of years to come.

Get Involved

You can help Sempervirens Fund protect and care for redwood lands and expand local parks so that you, wildlife, and future generations can enjoy these truly magnificent trees. You can make a donation or volunteer to help preserve and restore the wildlands of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

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