Ancient Trees in a Modern World
photo by Canopy Dynamics
The longest-lasting plants—defined as organisms, populations, or species—of a particular region, habitat, or epoch. Derivative: elderfloral.
Although their range has ebbed and flowed with the countless changes Earth has seen over the eons, coast redwoods are among the most ancient of elderflora. They are now concentrated on the California coast with fossil records tracing their ancestral line nearly to the time of dinosaurs.
The largest vascular plants of a particular region, habitat, or epoch. Derivative: megafloral. Compare with megafauna.
Often dominating the landscape and towering over all other existing plant life as the tallest tree species, coast redwoods are not only icons for California they are one of Earth’s ultimate megaflora.
Of woody plants: Having a prolonged life cycle. A thousand-year conifer, or of its nature. Compare with ephemeral, annual, biennial, and perennial.
Coast redwoods are a perdurable species, capable of great lifespans. Many reach old-growth status around 150 years, but individual trees are able to live for two millennia. And new sprouts may make redwoods even more perdurable by sharing root systems with their ancestors.
Biological or ecological resilience over a long time.
The perdurance of coast redwoods can be witnessed in the Santa Cruz mountains where they have regrown through basal sprouting despite clear cut logging in the previous century. They bear fire scars and basal hollows in their fire resistant, plate-like bark as they continue to grow and have so far held out against the intense fires, prolonged droughts, and severe storms of climate change in the southern end of their suitable habitat range.
The indirect benefits of elderflora to human life, such as the encouragement to meditate, venerate, or engage in long-term thinking. Compare with ecosystem services.
Throughout their tremendous life spans coast redwoods may seem virtually permanent and unchanging to the human mind and their physical presence provides a temporal service, anchoring our concept of time and change to the earth and allowing us to ponder the time line that stretches far before and far beyond our own existence.
The condition of temporal richness in a particular habitat or ecosystem. The existence of species of various evolutionary ages, species of various life strategies and life spans—and, within communities of plants, specimens of various ages. Compare with biodiversity.
Compared to a natural, old-growth redwood forest, the trees in both industrial and second generation redwood forests have less genetic and chronodiversity.
A title of respect, without a personifying name and without patriarchal or maternal gendering, for a venerable tree.
An ancient coast redwood featuring old-growth characteristics like great size and heights, strong plate-like bark, and reiterated trunks with vastly increasing canopy size hosts a whole other world in the sky. Venerable Old Ones also feature in creation stories and rites of several Indigenous tribes throughout California and the Pacific Northwest.
The multidinousness of a tree, including its habitat-forming canopy and its cross-species root system. Arboreality. Of vascular plants: A state of clonality or communality.
Renowned fairy rings of redwood trees remind us redwoods cannot reach their towering heights alone but rely on intertwining roots with other trees for stability, nutrients and information to support one another through the individual challenges and burdens of treehood.
the Great Diminution
The mutual lessening of biodiversity and chronodiversity on a planetary scale due to anthropogenic impacts. The simultaneous decline of megafauna, megaflora, elderflora, ancient forests, ancient species, and total species. Compare with the Great Acceleration.
As the climate changes, coast redwoods, which keep their microclimate cooler and wetter, offer a refuge of the more favorable conditions that allow species like them to thrive and grow to great sizes and ages, delaying the Great Diminution of species we are experiencing here and around the world.
More to Explore
- Read more about what old-growth is and why it matters
- Learn the Top 10 Facts that make redwoods magnificent and take a virtual climb through the stories of a redwood tree.
- Read our Climate Action Plan for Redwoods