Ronald Reagan once said that if you have seen one redwood tree, you have seen them all, but I would like to respectfully disagree (or maybe I should say, once you have heard one Republican, you have heard them all)…
These dazzling and tall trees from the Ice Age are extinct in Europe and for that reason alone, we should cherish and preserve our redwoods, the dinosaur among California’s evergreens.
Not only can redwoods reach incredible heights, their lifespan is equally impressive: in Sequoia National Park alone, you can find trees that are more than 2000 years old.
Culture snobs from Europe sometimes claim that the US doesn’t interest them due to its lack of culture and history, but in California we have redwoods that have been around since the Romans, the Middle Ages, the Enlightenment and the digital revolution.
Also, the redwood is the prehistoric ancestor of many trees and due to the mild climate of the California coast where you can find these trees, they survived the Ice Age and the thick polar layer which had covered a large part of North America. It is not so surprising then that the redwood is California’s state tree and you can see it everywhere along the coast where it continues to thrive, partly because of the recurring fog layers from the Pacific.
I should add here that in spite of the population boom after the Gold Rush, the policy of the state has been about preserving redwood forests: although many trees were cut down for building materials and agriculture, for every tree that goes down, seven new ones are planted. Because of this, the California forests have been thinned but not obliterated and they still form almost one-third of the total land surface of the state.
Even though redwoods are the cathedrals of the forests because of their height, their roots are surprisingly shallow. They go down for a little bit but then grow horizontally and sometimes more than 75 meters away from the original trunk. While an important building material at first, redwoods are now protected in parks like Redwood National Park, Sequoia National Park and close to San Fran: Muir Woods.
While California has a tree (the drought-resistant eucalyptus tree, imported from Australia) that acts like a fire bomb in a fire because it is filled with oil, the redwoods are actually particularly fire resistant. The roots are almost like a sponge retaining rain and melting snow, which it uses as a reservoir for the tree itself and its surroundings in times of zero precipitation. So really, redwoods rock and if you ever make it to the northern parts of the state, to Eureka, there is a windy road of about 30 miles that goes right past the redwoods and parallels Highway 101. During the Fall, the road is at its prettiest, so take your time for that’s what the redwoods do, too…