These California trees can reach higher than a 30-floor skyscraper (more than 320 feet), so high that the tops are out of sight.
The Tallest Trees In The World
Standing at the base of Earth's tallest tree, the coast redwood, is one of life's most humbling and amazing experiences. These California trees can reach higher than a 30-floor skyscraper (more than 320 feet), so high that the tops are out of sight.
Their trunks can grow 24 feet wide, about eight paces by an average adult person! Even more incredible: These trees can live for more than 2,000 years. Some coast redwoods living today were alive during the time of the Roman Empire.
There was a time when redwoods grew throughout the northern hemisphere of the planet, around the world. Today, coast redwoods are native only in 450-mile strip along the Pacific coast from central California to southern Oregon. We don't yet fully understand why most have gone and how some have stood the test of time.
The coast redwood is one of the world's fastest growing conifers, or cone-bearing trees. In contrast to the tree's size, redwood cones are very small — only about an inch long. Each cone contains a few dozen tiny seeds: It would take well over 100,000 seeds to weigh a pound! In good conditions, redwood seedlings grow rapidly, sometimes more than a foot annually. Young trees also sprout from their parent's roots, taking advantage of the energy and nutrient reserves contained within the established, shallow root system.
In recent years, scientists have discovered that life abounds in the canopy (the tops of old trees) and on the forest floor. Canopy research supported by Save the Redwoods League has revealed that many species can live in the redwood canopy, including worms, salamanders and plants such as Sitka spruce, ferns and huckleberry.
Frequent, naturally occurring fires play an important role in maintaining coast redwood forests because they rid the forest floor of combustible materials. These fires create space for redwood seedlings (and other plants) to grow and recycle nutrients. In contrast, decades of fire suppression practices usually result in the accumulation of dead plant material that may fuel intense, destructive fires.
Where coast redwoods live, temperatures are moderate year-round. Heavy winter rains and dense summer fog provide the trees with much-needed water during the otherwise drought-prone summers. In fact, redwoods create their own "rain" by capturing the fog on their lofty branches, contributing moisture to the forest in the driest time of year.
The native people of California did not usually cut down coast redwoods, but used fallen trees to make planks for houses and hollowed-out logs for canoes. When gold was discovered in 1849, hundreds of thousands of people came to California needing food and housing, and redwoods were logged extensively to satisfy the demand. By the 1960s, only a small fraction remained of the original ancient coast redwood forest. This original forest covered 2 million acres (the size of three Rhode Islands). Today, after decades of logging, most of the redwood forest is young. The largest surviving stands of ancient coast redwoods are in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Redwood National and State Parks and Big Basin Redwoods State Park.
Today, it takes a community of caretakers — scientists, land managers, volunteers and donors — to protect redwood forests. With your help, we know that these 2,000-year-old giants will inspire the imagination of countless generations to come. Donate today .
- Of the original 2 million acres of ancient coast redwood forest (the size of three Rhode Islands), approximately 95% has been logged.
- Today, about 117,000 acres (5%, or almost three times the size of Washington, DC) of these ancient coast redwood forests remain.
- Most areas that were ancient redwood forests 200 years ago now contain redwoods that grew after the original forests were cut down. There is an urgent need to restore these damaged lands so they will once again resemble majestic ancient forests and provide homes for animals that rely on them.
- Approximately 77% of the world's remaining ancient coast redwood forests is protected in a park or reserve or by a land preservation agreement. The remaining 23% may be logged because it is either held privately or in a national forest.
- Since 1918, Save the Redwoods League has protected more than 190,000 acres of California land, the size of 16 Manhattan islands.
Storing Carbon in Redwood Forest Soil
Redwood forests store more carbon per hectare (2.2 acres) than any other forest on Earth. Redwoods store carbon in their trunks. Underground, forest soils and root structures store even more carbon.
Explore more redwood resources on our Redwoods Learning Center.