Ancient Redwoods thrive along the Big Sur Coast
Redwood, also known as Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), grows in a very narrow strip along the coast of California from the extreme southwestern corner of Oregon to 150 miles south of San Francisco in the Soda Springs drainage of Big Sur. This area is about 500 miles long and rarely more than 20 or 30 miles wide in a region of frequent thick -summer fog, moderate year-round temperature, and considerable winter rainfall. Redwood does not grow naturally beyond the belt affected by this combination.
Redwood is a rapidly growing tree, and some individual trees have been measured at more than 360 feet in height, making it the tallest measured tree species on the earth. In favorable situations, trees 20 years old may average 50 feet in height and 8 inches in diameter. Average mature trees are from 200 to 240 feet high with diameters of 10 to 15 feet at 4 feet 8 inches above the ground.
Exceptional individuals sometimes reach a height of 350 feet, a diameter of over 20 feet, and an age of approximately 2000 years.
Redwood leaves are green, flat, and sharp-pointed. The brown cones are egg-shaped and only one-half inch in diameter. Their seeds average about 123,000 to a pound. The soft, reddish-brown bark, six to twelve inches thick, is one of the Coast redwood's most distinguishing characteristic and, together with the wood, names the species.
On older trees the bark has a grayish tinge, and is deeply furrowed, giving the trees a fluted appearance.Although the thick bark of older trees is relatively fire resistant, repeated fires can damage these trees considerably. The large hollows or "goose-pens" frequently found in the base of large trees give evidence of this fact.
Fire also either seriously injures the young growth or kills it outright. However, redwood is exceptionally free from fungus diseases, and there are no insects which materially harm it. Human demand for lumber is responsible for most of the destruction of first growth Coast Redwood forests. Adjacent to the softball field at Pfeiffer-Big Sur State Park is one of Big Sur's largest redwood trees. The size of this ancient tree, known locally as the "Pioneer Tree," is deceiving - due to lightning strikes, this majestic specimen's top has been severed.
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