Redwood trees have grown on the Earth for 240 million years, appearing just after the disappearance of dinosaurs and well before flowers, birds, spiders . . . and people. They are the tallest living trees on the planet, more than 300 feet, and can be from 8 to 20 feet in diameter. They can be identified by their grey spiraling bark, and occasionally a rust colored base.
Redwoods live so long because their bark can be a foot thick and contains tannin that protects the tree from fire, insects, fungus and diseases. There is no known insect that can destroy a redwood tree. Fire is not a big threat because the trunk is thick, there’s lots of water inside, and the bark doesn’t have flammable resin like other trees do. They also have an incredible ability to adapt to shifting slopes, floods, and other trees falling against them by speeding up their growth on your downhill side, effectively buttressing themselves against further lean. They grow in a forest by expanding their roots outward instead of down, and intertwine with other redwoods to strengthen their stability.
Wild, endangered creatures like mountain lions, coho salmon and marbled murrelet need large, contiguous areas of diverse habitat to survive, especially as the climate changes and they need to adapt quickly; they depend on the canopy of redwood forests. Redwood forests are also home for amphibians, beetles, crickets, worms, millipedes, spiders, mollusks, chipmunks, fishers, peregrine falcons, bald eagles, northern spotted owls and at least six species of bat.
Redwoods are perfectly suited to one swath of the Northern California coast. They are even able to extract moisture from the resident fog. Unfortunately they have been reduced from two million acres in the 1800s to less than 100,000 acres through logging. Their reverence and protection is the work of Save the redwoods.org.