In celebration and praise of one of our favorite trees and in accordance with the launch of our new WINTER REDWOOD FIELD LAB WILDERNESS PERFUME, we thought we would take a moment and discuss the natural history of this wonder of wonders, the redwood. For all you plant geeks out there, we are talking about the Coastal Redwood, not the Sierra Redwood or the Dawn Redwood. Those are totally different species, although they are all from the same evolutionary branch. When it comes to the Redwood, the superlatives roll out; they are among the tallest, the oldest, and the biggest living things on earth. The Redwoods- Coastal Redwood, Sierra Redwood, and Dawn Redwood- were present on earth at the same time as the dinosaurs and individuals may live for over two thousand years. To do so, these giants have a whole tool belt full of survival strategies. When you live that long, you have to be ready for anything. Here is a list of some of their techniques:
1. Capturing fog with built in water making machines. Coastal Redwoods, which are the basis of our winter redwood formulation, need the heavy fogs that are normal daily occurrences along the coast. These 300 foot or taller giants actually pull moisture into their needles at the tops of the tree where the circulation system of the tree is not able to reach. The fan-like splayed needles of the tree act as a kind of radiator to catch the fog moisture and feed the tree. The 50-60 degree average temperature of the area is also important to the life cycle of these trees. These two conditions are limits to the modern day range of these giants. They will grow just about anywhere on the west coast if they’re planted. There are three huge specimens just outside the Lake Quinault Lodge that were planted 100 years ago on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula about 800 miles north of the nearest Redwood. These planted specimens will never attain their potential size without the Coastal fogs that nurture them and at the same time keep out competing species such as pines. You will find Coastal Redwoods neither right next to the ocean nor in the mountains where it snows; they cannot take too much salt in the air and they do not like the cold.
2. Resisting fire and bugs with unique bark type. In an ecosystem with a fire regime of about one every two hundred years, you are going to face a half dozen forest fires if you live for two thousand years. The bark of a Coastal Redwood is very thick, as much as twelve inches in places; this bark is insulation and a heat shield. The chemical composition of the tree is apparently distasteful or even poisonous to normal tree pests like termites and ants. That is the reason Redwood was used as the first layer of boards in a wall. Redwood is very resistant to water-associated rot. It is not uncommon to drill a well in a creek bed in this area and end up drilling right through a redwood log that may have been buried there for thousands of years. The wood comes out of the pipe sound and in good shape.
3. Even when it is down, it is not out. A live redwood that is knocked over will attempt to continue growing via its limbs. If undisturbed, the limbs pointing up will turn into trees in their own right, and this is indeed the source of many row groups of trees. “Sister Rings” of trees are simply trees that have grown up from the living remains of the stump of a fallen redwood. Since they grew out of the perimeter, they are organized in a circle. If you looked at the genetic information in a cell of each of these trees, you would find that they were identical to each other and to the stump they sprang from. They are indeed clones.
4. Clone yourself. 80% of the Redwoods now standing were produced in a cloning process. Some Redwoods out there could be the last in a 20,000 or 30,000 (or more) year line of the SAME tree reproducing itself over and over again. Genetically, they are the same tree that grew from a seed all those centuries ago. These amazing trees are truly ever-living.
5. Grow roots wherever. Coastal Redwoods have the unique ability to survive rising soil levels over the millennia. Rising ground levels are commonly brought about by flood deposits, and these deposits typically smother other trees’ root systems. The redwood simply grows a new lateral root system. Seven successive layers of roots were observed on one fallen redwood meaning that the ground level had risen dramatically up the tree seven times and each time the tree responded with a new root system. The total rise on this particular tree was 11 feet over the trees 1200+ year life. It has been observed that some 1000+ year old redwoods have experienced and survived rises in ground level of as much as 30 feet. Couple this with redwoods ability to survive long periods of immersion and their immense durability in the face of flood borne debris, and you will realize that the redwood can thrive in flood planes that wipe out less hardy tree species. We at Juniper Ridge carry a holy kind of reverence for these trees and are never jaded hiking through their groves for the millionth time. Consider John Steinbeck and get some Winter Redwood Wilderness Perfume to enjoy the true spirit of this ancient forest: “The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes. No, they are not like any trees we know; they are ambassadors from another time.”