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FAQ About Armstrong Redwoods

How big is the reserve?
Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve encompasses 805 acres.  Austin Creek State Recreation area is approximately 5683 acres.

When was the fire?
Most of the fires were started by lightning strikes that hit the bases of trees during dry season.  Fire travels through the root system to ignite the bases of other trees.  The last big fire was in 1926.  It swept through the forest and continued almost reaching the ocean.  We know it was caused by human carelessness.  One theory states that an accident at an illegal whiskey still may have caused the fire.

Why are some of the trees burned out on the inside?
These are called “goosepens” (the early settlers kept their geese in them!). When fire sweeps through the forest the duff and slash around the base of the trees burns hotter and longer, thereby finding a weak spot in the trunk and burning out the heartwood.  The bark itself has “tannins” which insulates the redwood, especially further up the tree.

Why is it so quiet in the grove?
Because the grove is so well shaded few plants can grow which would offer food and shelter for animals.  Consequently there are very few birds and only a scolding squirrel may be heard now and then.

Why are there so many small trees growing around older stumps?
When a tree dies and leaves a decomposing stump, other trees sprout around its base, sometimes creating what is called a “fairy ring” – several mature trees growing in a nearly perfect circle.

What is the Burbank Circle?
Located to the left of the main road, this circle of trees appears to be a fairy ring, but encompasses too large an area.  Theories include the idea that this circle was created by successive generations of fairy rings, but all we really know is that it is a natural cleared area.  It is a true mystery since no roots of a large tree can be found.

How and why do burls grow on the trees?
The knobby growths or burls on the sides of some of the trees are places where, for some unknown reason, the tree has budded over and over again in the same location.  Although on examination burls appear parallel to cancer in humans, they are not harmful to the tree.

How fast do redwoods grow?
Where their tops are exposed to drying winds and full sun, redwoods grow only an inch or so per year.  Under ideal conditions, partial shade where they are protected from moisture loss, redwoods may grow two or three feet in a year.  The stems of young trees may increase in diameter by an inch or more each year, but this rate diminishes with age.

Was the grove ever logged?
Some parts of the grove had been logged at the time it was set aside by Armstrong, particularly from the entrance to the Armstrong Tree.  So we currently see a combination of second and old growth trees here.

How much rain does the reserve get a year?
Rainfall averages 55 inches per year.