California redwood trees are among the largest living beings in existence, and one of the oldest to boot. They can reach heights of more than 350 feet, and some specimens have been alive since the days of the Roman Empire. California redwoods thrive in the damp coastal forests of Northern California between Humboldt and the Oregon border. Most redwoods are protected either in California State Parks or in Redwoods National Park. After wholesale harvesting in the 19th and 20th centuries, only an estimated 4 percent of California's redwoods remain. (Pictured below: General Sherman in Sequoia National Park, California)
Redwood trees are so named because of their bark, which is soft and reddish-brown. The wood itself is fibrous and extremely strong. The redwood's thick tannin-rich bark is both termite and fire-resistant. Its branches bear two sets of differently-shaped needles and olive-sized cones. Neighboring trees intertwine their shallow roots to provide stability. Redwood trees have few natural enemies. Insects rarely harm them, and they are exceedingly resistant to fungus and other forms of rot.
Scientists believe that redwoods could once be found all over the world. The global climate has shifted in the past few million years to severely restrict their current habitat: a 450-mile stretch of coastline between Monterey Bay and Oregon. According to the National Park Service, some California redwoods are in their third millennium. Most of the old-growth trees, however, are between 500 and 700 years old.
Redwood trees tend to grow quickly, provided the conditions are right. Coast redwoods tend to grow at a rate of 5 to 7 feet a year, while giant sequoias grow about 2 feet per year. California redwoods and giant sequoias aren't the same; they're closely related but distinct varieties of the Sequoia tree species. Although giant sequoias are shorter, their enormous girth makes them the world's largest trees by volume. The General Sherman (pictured at top), a giant sequoia located in Sequoia National Park, is currently the largest known living tree (by volume). The tallest living tree, however, is a coast redwood called Hyperion, which stands 380 ft tall in Redwood National Park.
California State Parks: About Coast Redwoods
Redwood National and State Parks