Towering Trees: The Coast Redwood

Coast redwoods are the tallest trees on Earth – and they also only live in the Bay Area.

Places to See Coast Redwoods

Coast redwoods are the tallest trees on Earth.

Coast redwoods grow to heights of over 379 feet – as tall as a 38-floor skyscraper. They can also grow to widths of 26 feet in diameter.

Coast redwoods get their name from the rich color of their bark.

True to their name, these giants have beautiful reddish-colored bark. The rich color is due to high contents of tannins, a chemical which helps them repel damage from insects. Their bark is also especially thick to help protect them from forest fires, which seasonally occur in California.

Coast redwoods live for thousands of years.

Coast redwoods are known to live over 2,000 years. They are an ancient species that dates back to the Jurassic Period over 200 million years ago.

Big Basin SP 1 Logo
Hiker Mary Gibbs admires coast redwoods at Big Basin State Park.

Coast redwoods only grow in one place on Earth: the coast of Northern California to Southern Oregon.

Coast redwoods can only be found on the coast of Northern California up into Oregon. In their range, they do not extend more than 50 miles inland. The heavy rains in the winter provide them with plenty of water. In the dryer months, the coastal fog provides much-needed moisture to the redwoods.

Millions of years ago, there used to be many species of redwood tree in the Northern Hemisphere. Today, only three species have survived the millions of years of changes on Earth: the coast redwood, the giant sequoia, and the dawn redwood. 2 of the 3 remaining species (coast redwood and giant sequoia) can be found in California, whereas the dawn redwood can be found in China.

Only 5% of the original old-growth trees survived logging along California’s coast.

The California Gold Rush in 1848 brought about a huge population boom – and with the rise of the human population came a rise in demand for lumber. Settlers looked to California’s coast for sources of wood, decimating stands of coast redwoods in the process. Extensive logging has reduced the population of old-growth trees (trees that have survived a prolonged period of time without disturbance) to 5% of its original size.

Cool facts about coast redwood trees:

  • The tallest known coast redwood is named Hyperion, who stands at 379 feet tall.
  • Coast redwoods have very shallow root systems relative to the heights that they reach. To provide stability in the face of strong winds, they grow their roots outwards and intertwine them with neighboring trees.

Resources to learn more:

Author: Taylor Crisologo

Taylor studied biology at Cornell University, where she worked with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology on projects ranging from breeding herring gulls off the coast of Maine to dancing lyrebirds in Australia’s Blue Mountains. When she’s not researching great places to experience Bay Area nature, you can find her birding or reading a book at home with her husband and their two indoor cats (Max and Penelope).

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