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.

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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:

Nature’s Majesty: The Giant Sequoia

California is home to the largest tree on the planet – a giant sequoia named the General Sherman Tree. Learn about this massive tree species, its old age, and how it inspired the National Park Service logo.

Giant sequoias are the largest trees on Earth.

Giant sequoias are truly giants – they can grow to heights of about 300 feet and their trunks can reach diameters of about 30 feet. While some tree species can match the giant sequoia by either height or diameter, no other species can beat both. Because of this, giant sequoias grow to be the world’s largest trees.

Giant sequoias stop growing in height over time; however, they are always growing around the trunk. The largest tree on the planet, General Sherman, is a giant sequoia at Sequoia National Park. Each year, it grows enough wood around its trunk to be equivalent to a large tree of a different species.

Giant sequoias live to be thousands of years old.

Giant sequoias live for thousands of years. The oldest giant sequoia is estimated to be 3,210 years old.

To age a giant sequoia, scientists count the tree rings from an intact trunk of a fallen tree. Using the information from the trunk, scientists can then estimate the ages of standing trees that are a similar size and that grew in a similar environment.

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Giant sequoia in King’s Canyon National Park

Giant sequoias are only found in California.

Giant sequoias have a very restricted range, meaning that they only grow in a small area on Earth. Giant sequoias are only found on the western side of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California, along a short stretch of about 250 miles. They grow at elevations of 4,000 to 8,000 feet.

Giant sequoia seeds have a one in a billion chance of becoming an adult tree.

Giant sequoia seeds are only about as big as a pinhead, enclosed in a small, egg-shaped cone. Trees will not produce large amounts of seeds until they are several hundred years old. Reproducing giant sequoia trees will deposit millions of seeds each year; however, because of harsh growing conditions, there is a one in a billion chance that the seedling will grow into a mature tree.

Giant sequoias, like all other species, are subject to the effects of climate change.

It is estimated that 92% of the larger giant sequoia trees are protected by public agencies, namely the National Parks and National Forests. Yet despite this federal protection, parks can no longer guarantee the safety of the trees when faced with the consequences of climate change.

Giant sequoias only live on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California. This restricted range puts them in danger as climate change threatens our planet. Climate change may cause the area to be too hot or too dry for the trees, putting the species at risk.

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Giant Sequoias looking down at the parking lot in King’s Canyon National Park

Cool facts about giant sequoias:

  • It is estimated that there are only about 20,000 giant sequoias alive that have diameters greater than 10 feet.
  • The roots of mature giant sequoias stretch out over 100 feet in every direction.
  • Giant sequoia bark is thick and contains little sap to help protect it from fires.
  • Giant sequoias are on the U.S. National Park emblem. This is because 3 of the 4 first National Parks created protected giant sequoias.

Resources to learn more: