What do you call a 100m tall living thing having not only historic importance because it is almost 400-500 years old but also plays a remarkable ecological role?? A Giant Redwood Tree. The first record of the Redwood was written by Fray Juan Crespi in 1769. Its botanical discoverer was Archibald Menzies, whose collections are dated 1794. The name “Redwood” comes from the first, Spanish, description of the huge trees, Palo Colorado, meaning “red trees.”
The coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) towers over all other trees in the world. At 112.1 meters (367.8 feet) the coast redwood discovered on the banks of Redwood Creek by the National Geographic Society in 1963 was the tallest known tree, known as the Stratosphere Giant. However, in 2006 the world’s reigning tallest living tree, seems to have lost its title to not one but three contenders in Redwood National Park. The threesome was discovered by a team of Researchers from California. In addition to these the team has also found around 135 trees which are above 350 feet in height!
Redwoods not only stand tall but also develop the greatest reported volume of living matter per unit of land surface. The giant sequoias, cousins to the coast redwoods, grow larger in diameter and bulk, but not as tall. Coast redwoods survive to be over 2,000 years old—perhaps half the age of giant sequoias—and average probably 500-700 years. The living tree has no known killing diseases, and the insects associated with it cause no significant damage. Fire is its worst natural foe, but usually to young trees which lack the thick bark protection. As with most conifers, redwoods lack a taproot, and their broad shallow root system sometimes provides inadequate support for the massive trunk and the wind thus eventually may topple many a mature trees.
These trees although haven’t been an exception to the exploitation by the lumber industry and as in the past, even today they are mercilessly brought down for material purposes. The number however has increased and what is sad is the fact that some people are choosing to pay no heed but rather continue mining the money. So as always the environmentalists are at logger heads with the lumber industry. But a few environmentalists alone, with a few plans like land acquisition programs etc cannot bring about the change and raise the awareness that is required. The Redwoods are not just trees, they are one of a kind and they need our help.
This sentiment is captured beautifully in the words of Senegalese poet Baba Dioum when he writes;
“In the end, we conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.”