About Coast Redwoods

Coast redwoods range from southern Oregon to central California, extending not more than fifty miles inland- only as far as the coastal climate has its influence. Fog plays a vital role in the survival of these trees, protecting them from the summer drought conditions typical of this area. They also need abundant winter rain and moderate year round temperatures. In ideal conditions a coast redwood can grow 2-3 feet in height annually, but when the trees are stressed from lack of moisture and sunlight they may grow as little as one inch per year.

Because these trees are so tall, the treetop needles are exposed to more dry heat than the needles of branches in the dense canopy below. To compensate for this, redwoods grow treetop needles with tight spikes that conserve moisture, due to little evaporative surface. The lower branches, on the other hand, produce flat needles in order to catch additional light through the thick canopy of branches. 

These trees have shallow root systems that extend over one hundred feet from the base, intertwining with the roots of other redwoods. This increases their stability during strong winds and floods. 

Redwoods are naturally resistant to insects, fungi, and fire because they are high in tannin and do not produce resin or pitch. Their thick, reddish, pithy bark also provides protection and insulation for the tree. Even a downed tree can survive The blackened hollows you will see when you walk through the grove were caused by a fire in 1926, and are a testament to the trees' remarkable ability to survive.

Redwood trees flower during the wet and rainy months of December and January. They produce cones that mature the next fall. Redwood cones are about an inch long and they produce tiny seeds, about the same size as a tomato seed. While each tree can produce 100,000 seeds annually, the germination rate is very low. Most redwoods grow more successfully from sprouts that form around the base of a tree, utilizing the nutrients and root system of a mature tree. When the parent tree dies, a new generation of trees rise, creating a circle of trees that are often called fairy rings.  

COMPANIONS OF THE REDWOODS

A mixture of trees and shrubs creates a multi-layered canopy that supports the growth of each species in the grove. Diversity is crucial to the redwood forest; every plant, tree, and even fallen logs, play a crucial role. The following trees and plants are commonly found in a redwood forest and each plays its part in the ecosystem. A more comprehensive list of plants, trees and shrubs thriving in the Grove can be picked up at the park.  

DOUGLAS FIR
A prominent member of the redwood forest, this tree is second in size only to the coast redwood. It is easily differentiated from a redwood by its dark gray bark and 3/4" cones.

BIG LEAF MAPLE
This tree thrives in moist coastal climates. Its three to five lobed leaves turn bright yellow and orange in the fall.

CALIFORNIA BAY LAUREL
The leathery dark green leaves of this tree produce a pungent odor when crushed. The Pomo Indians used parts of this tree for food and medicine.

TAN OAK
This evergreen, which is not a true oak, has smooth gray bark and glossy toothed leaves ending in sharp spines. Traditionally, the acorns were used for food and medicine. Tannic acid is derived from the bark of these trees and used to tan leather.

CALIFORNIA HAZEL
This shrub grows 3-10 feet tall and produces edible nuts. Native Indians used the stems of this shrub to make baskets.

WOODROSE
This is a small shrub that produces dainty pink blossoms in the spring, that are replaced by bright rose hips in the autumn.

REDWOOD TRILLIUM
This flower is a member of the lily family and thrives in the cooler climate of the redwoods. A three-petaled white flower blooms in the spring.

REDWOOD SORREL
This plant forms a beautiful green carpet on the shady forest floor, folding its leaves when needed to preserve moisture. In the spring it produces a delicate there-petaled violet flower.

SWORD FERN
This fern is a striking plant with individual fronds that arise from a single base and can grow up to five feet long. It is typically found growing in shaded, sheltered areas.

BRACKEN FERN
This fern grows anywhere from dry open areas to moist shaded spots. It has a main stem can grow 1-4 feet with lateral branches. Native Americans used the roots to make baskets.