Redwoods are the tallest trees on the planet--reaching a height of 350 feet or more. That's roughly the height of a 35-story building. "Hyperion" is the name given to the coast redwood that has the distinction of being the world's tallest known living tree, topping out at 379.1 feet. It was discovered September 8, 2006, in a remote area of the Redwood National Park. Its exact location is kept secret to protect it.
They weigh in at upwards of 500 tons. Hyperion is estimated to contain 18,600 cubic feet of wood--and yet it's not considered the largest redwood. That honor belongs to "Lost Monarch," which is at least 26 feet in diameter (at "diameter breast height," which is 4.5 feet above soil grade) and is 320 feet tall. Lost Monarch was discovered May 11, 1998, and is resides in the "The Grove of Titans" in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Once again, the exact location is secret.
A typical lifespan for these giants is 500 to 700 years, although they can live 2,000 years. They have protection to help them live such long lives: bark that can be up to 1 foot thick. It makes them impervious to fire, fungus, diseases and insects. (In fact, there is no insect that can kill a redwood.) The bark contains no pitch, which is very flammable, but it does contain both tannin and a sap that is mostly water--all of which adds up to tremendous fire resistance.
The scientific name of the redwood is sequoia sempervirens--which may help explain why they are often confused with their close relative, commonly known as the sequoia tree. The sequoias, found in Kings Canyon, Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks, are wider, larger and longer-lived--but they're not as tall.
Redwoods grow only in a very specific climate. They need moderate summer temperatures and lots of precipitation, either as rain or fog. Consequently they grow in coastal northwest California (but not at the coast, as they don't like salt spray) in lower levels of mountain ranges (they don't like snow and frost). California's near-coast region receives between 70 and 122 inches of rain a year, perfect for the redwoods. A large redwood can hold 34,000 pounds of water.
Where to Find Them
The northern-most redwoods are in two groves on the Chetco River at the western edge of the Klamath Mountains, 15 miles north of the California-Oregon border. The largest and tallest populations, though, are in California in the Redwood National and State Parks (Del Norte and Humboldt Counties) and Humboldt Redwoods State Park. They can also be seen as far south as the Santa Lucia Mountains of the Big Sur area of California.