Sequoia sempervirens

Sequoia sempervirens, Photo: Michael Lahanas

Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Classis: Pinopsida
Ordo: Pinales
Familia: Cupressaceae
Genus: Sequoia
Species: Sequoia sempervirens


Sequoia sempervirens (D.Don) Endl.


* Syn. conif. 198. 1847
* USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN) [Online Database]. [1]

Vernacular names
Dansk: Rødtræ
English: Coastal Redwood
Español: Secuoya
Français: Séquoia à feuilles d'if
Magyar: Örökzöld mamutfenyő
Svenska: Amerikansk sekvoja
中文: 加州紅木


Sequoia sempervirens /sɨˈkwɔɪ.ə sɛmpərˈvaɪrənz/[1] 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.[2] This species includes the tallest trees on Earth, reaching up to 379 feet (115.52 m) in height 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 2.1 million acres 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 the coast redwood along with Sequoiadendron (giant sequoia) and Metasequoia (dawn redwood). On its own, the term redwood usually refers to the coast redwood, not to the other two species.

Bark detail

Coast redwoods have a conical crown, with horizontal to slightly drooping branches. The bark is very thick, up to 30 cm (12 in), and quite soft, fibrous with a bright red-brown when freshly exposed (hence the name redwood), weathering darker. The root system is composed of shallow, wide-spreading lateral roots.

The leaves are variable, being 15–25 millimetres (0.59–0.98 in) long and flat on young trees and shaded shoots in the lower crown of old trees, and scale-like, 5–10 millimetres (0.20–0.39 in) long on shoots in full sun in the upper crown of older trees; there is a full range of transition between the two extremes. They are dark green above, and with two blue-white stomatal bands below. Leaf arrangement is spiral, but the larger shade leaves are twisted at the base to lie in a flat plane for maximum light capture.

The species is monoecious, with pollen and seed cones on the same plant.

The seed cones are ovoid, 15–32 millimetres (0.59–1.3 in) long, with 15–25 spirally arranged scales; pollination is in late winter with maturation about 8–9 months after. Each cone scale bears 3–7 seeds, each seed 3–4 millimetres (0.12–0.16 in) long and 0.5 millimetres (0.020 in) broad, with two wings 1 millimetre (0.039 in) wide. The seeds are released when the cone scales dry out and open at maturity.

The pollen cones are oval, 4–6 millimetres (0.16–0.24 in) long.

Its genetic makeup is unusual among conifers, being a hexaploid (6n) and possibly allopolyploid (AAAABB).[3] The mitochondrial genome of the redwood is paternally inherited (unlike that of other conifers).[4]
[edit] Range and ecology
Sunlight shining through redwoods in Muir Woods

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 Monterey Bay to 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.[5]
Fog is of major importance in coast redwood ecology. Redwood National Park.

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). 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.[6]

This native area provides a unique environment with heavy seasonal rains (of up to 2,500 mm or 100 inches and more 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.

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;[7] many others in the wild exceed 600 years. The numerous claims of older trees are incorrect.[7] 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".

The prehistoric fossil range of the genus is considerably greater, with a subcosmopolitan distribution including Europe and Asia until about 5 million years ago.

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%.[8] 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 feet) tall in 20 years.
A ring of Sequoia trees as seen from below.

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 feet) 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.
Cultivation and uses

Coast redwood is one of the most valuable timber species in California, with 899,000 acres (364,000 ha) of redwood forest, all second growth, managed for timber production.[9] Coast redwood lumber is highly valued for its beauty, light weight, and resistance to decay. Its lack of resin makes it resistant to fire.

P. H. Shaughnessy, Chief Engineer of the San Francisco Fire Department wrote:

In the recent great fire of San Francisco, that began April 18th, 1906, we succeeded in finally stopping it in nearly all directions where the unburned buildings were almost entirely of frame construction and if the exterior finish of these buildings had not been of redwood lumber, I am satisfied that the area of the burned district would have been greatly extended.

Because of its impressive resistance to decay, redwood was extensively used for railroad ties and trestles throughout California. Many of the old ties have been recycled for use in gardens as borders, steps, etc. Redwood burls are used in the production of table tops, veneers, and turned goods.

The coast redwood is locally naturalized in New Zealand, notably at Rotorua. Other areas of successful cultivation outside of the native range include Great Britain, Italy, Portugal,[10] the Queen Charlotte Islands, middle elevations of Hawaii, a small area in central Mexico (Jilotepec) and the southeastern United States from eastern Texas to Maryland. Coast redwood trees were used in a display at Rockefeller Center and then given to Longhouse Reserve in East Hampton, Long Island, New York and these have now been living there for over 17 years (2010) and survived 2°F (-17°C).[11]

Dried resin of a redwood tree
An example of a bonsai redwood, from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

Trees over 60 m (200 feet) are common, and many are over 90 m (300 feet).

* The current tallest tree is Hyperion, measuring at 115.61 m (379.3 feet).[7] 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 m (361 feet) tall.[12]
* There are 178 measured trees that are more than 106.7 m (350 feet) tall.[12] Preliminary analysis of LiDAR data indicates there are hundreds of additional trees in excess of 106 m (348 ft) previously unknown.[13]
* A tree claimed to be 115.8 m (380 feet) was cut down in 1914.[14]
* A tree claimed to be 129 m (424 feet) 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.[15][16][17]

* 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).[18]

The foliage of an "albino" Sequoia sempervirens exhibiting lack of chlorophyll
Trunk in sectional view

The theoretical maximum potential height of coast redwoods is limited to between 122 and 130 m (between 410 and 425 feet), due to gravity and the friction between water and the vessels through which it flows.[19]

The largest coast redwood in volume is the "Lost Monarch", with an estimated volume of 42,500 cubic feet (1,200 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 (52,510 cubic feet), making it the world's largest known tree. A redwood cut down in 1926 had a claimed volume of 1,794 m³ (63,350 cubic feet), but this is 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).[20] 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.
Largest trees

The nine largest known coast redwoods by total wood volume in the main trunk and stems combined as of 2009.[21]
Rank Tree Name Location Volume Height Diameter (b.h)
(m³) (cu ft) (m) (ft) (m) (ft)
1 Lost Monarch JSRSP 1206 42,500 97.8 321 7.92 26.0
2 Melkor RNP 1109 39,100 106.3 349 6.82 22.4
3 Iluvatar PCRSP 1064 37,500 91.4 300 6.25 20.5
4 Del Norte Titan JSRSP 1055 37,200 93.6 307 7.22 23.7
5 El Viejo Del Norte JSRSP 1002 35,400 98.7 324 7.01 23.0
6 Howland Hill Giant JSRSP 953 33,580 100.6 330 6.02 19.8
7 Sir Isaac Newton PCRSP 942 33,192 91.1 299 6.85 22.5
8 Terex Titan PCRSP 919 32,384 82.3 270 6.49 21.3
9 Adventure Tree PCRSP 912 32,140 101.8 334 4.95 16.5

The order of largest and tallest can change at any time due to new discoveries, loss of stem and foliage, growth, and new measurements. One of the better known Internet databases for large conifers is The Gymnosperm Database,[7] but its data can be different from other resources due to differences in standards.
Tallest trees

Trees over 112 m (367.5 ft) as of 2010.[12]
Tree Name Height Location
(m) (ft)
Hyperion 115.61 379.3 RNSP
Helios 114.58 375.9 RNSP
Icarus 113.14 371.2 RNSP
Stratosphere Giant 113.11 371.1 HRSP
National Geographic 112.71 369.9 RNSP
Orion 112.63 369.5 RNSP
Lauralyn 112.62 369.5 HRSP
Paradox 112.56 369.3 HRSP
Mendocino 112.20 368.1 MWSR
Apex 112.00 367.4 HRSP

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).[18]
See also

* Sequoiadendron giganteum - Giant Sequoia or Sierra Redwood
* Metasequoia glyptostroboides - Dawn Redwood
* Cryptomeria japonica - Sugi
* Northern California coastal forests (WWF ecoregion)
* Pacific temperate rain forests (WWF ecoregion)
* Orders of magnitude (length)
* Leighton Hall, Powys - largest collection of coast redwoods in Europe; home to one of two living fallen redwoods in the UK
* Bank Hall Gardens - home to second living fallen redwood
* Save-the-Redwoods League
* Redwood (color)
* Bury Me in Redwood Country


1. ^ Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
"sempervirent". Oxford English Dictionary. Oxford University Press. 2nd ed. 1989.
2. ^ Sequoia Gigantea is of an Ancient and Distinguished Family
3. ^ Ahuja, M.R.; Neale, D.B. (2002). "Origins of Polyploidy in Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) and Relationship of Coast Redwood to other Genera of Taxodiaceae". Silvae Genetica 51 (2-3): 93–100.
4. ^ Neale, D. B.; Marshall, K. A.; Sederoff, R. R. (1989). "Chloroplast and Mitochondrial DNA are Paternally Inherited in Sequoia sempervirens." (PDF). Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 86 (23): 9347–9349. doi:10.1073/pnas.86.23.9347. PMID 16594091. PMC 298492. Retrieved 2009-08-19.
5. ^
6. ^ [1]
7. ^ a b c d "Sequoia sempervirens". The Gymnosperm Database. Retrieved 2008-08-23.
8. ^ "Botanical Garden Logistics" (PDF). UC Berkeley – Biology 1B – Plants & Their Environments (p. 13). Department of Integrative Biology, University of California-Berkeley. Retrieved 2008-08-23.
9. ^ "IUCN Red List of Threatened Species". Species Survival Commission. Retrieved 2008-08-23.
10. ^ "Distribution within Europe". Retrieved 2008-08-23.
11. ^ "Longhouse".
12. ^ a b c Tallest Coast Redwoods. Landmark Trees Archive. Retrieved 2010-03-09
13. ^ Tree Climbers International - Re: The world's second tallest tree found in Tasmania
14. ^ Carder, A. (1995). Forest giants of the world: past and present.. Ontario: Fitzhenry and Whiteside. ISBN 978-1550410907.
15. ^ Redwood Lumber Industry, Lynwood Carranco. Golden West Books, 1982 - Page 21.
16. ^ Fort Worth Daily Gazette, Fort Worth, Texas. December 9th, 1886 - Page 2.
17. ^ Does size matter? John Driscoll/The Times-Standard, Eureka, California. September 8th, 2006.
18. ^ a b Van Pelt, Robert (2001). Forest Giants of the Pacific Coast. Global Forest Society. pp. 16, 42. ISBN 0-9684143-1-1.
19. ^ Koch, G.W., Sillett, S.C., Jennings, G.M., and Davis, S.D. 2004. The limits to tree height. Nature 428: 851–854.
20. ^ Stienstra, T. (2007-10-11). "It's no snow job - handful of redwoods are rare albinos". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-10-14.
21. ^ Largest Coast Redwoods. Landmark Trees Archive. Retrieved 2010-03-09

External links

* Most Complete & Current Tallest Redwoods List Sponsored by the Tall Trees Club
* Gymnosperm Database - Sequoia sempervirens champions
* US National Park Service About the Trees
* Humboldt Redwoods State Park (CA) Humboldt Redwoods Interpretive Association
* Save the Redwoods League Non-profit organization: education, protection and restoration
* Sempervirens Fund Non-profit organization
* ICT Int. Gallery sensors installation by Dr. Stephen Sillet & team
* Preston, Richard. "Climbing the Redwoods" - 2/14-21/2005 New Yorker article about redwoods and climbing.
* More about Sequoia sempervirens: images and info of coast redwoods
* Humboldt State University / Professor Sillett Includes photo gallery, canopy views, epiphytes, and arboreal animals
* redwoods in the UK
* Bury Me in Redwood Country Documentary film about the natural and cultural history of the Redwood forest landscape and its spiritual aesthetic
* Largest Coast Redwoods - Photos, Info: Stratosphere Giant, Iluvatar, Lost Monarch, Del Norte Titan, Atlas Tree, Fusion Giant, Hyperion
* Popular Science, November 1943, Saga of the Redwoods
* "Science on the SPOT: Albino Redwoods, Ghosts of the Forest". YouTube video from Quest. KQED. August 26, 2010.
* Sequencing the genome of the rare albino redwood tree

Further reading

* Preston, Richard "The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring", Random House, 2007, ISBN 978-1-4000-6489-2.
* Farjon & members of the Conifer Specialist Group (2006). Sequoia sempervirens. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. Retrieved on 11 May 2006. Database entry includes a lengthy justification of why this species is vulnerable
* Farjon, A. (2005). Monograph of Cupressaceae and Sciadopitys. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. ISBN 1-84246-068-4
* Noss, R. F., ed. (2000). The Redwood Forest: history, ecology and conservation of the Coast Redwood. Island Press, Washington DC. ISBN 1-55963-726-9

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