I grew up in Northern California, a key home to some of our planet’s largest organisms– redwood trees. My family would frequently make the trek to Yosemite to visit the old growth forests of giant sequoias. My cousins and I traced trails through the base of Mount Tam in San Francisco in search of the tallest possible trees. When I learned to drive, my friends and I would often take to Highway 1 during long weekends, winding up in the midst of hundreds of coast redwoods.
One journey with friends consisted of venturing to Santa Cruz with a determination to track down a rare albino redwood. This mysterious subcategory of redwoods does not grow nearly as tall as the rest of the family because they do not have the means to produce their own chlorophyll, a pigment that allows plants to feed themselves through converting light into sugars. A few months prior, a kind volunteer at a nature resource center had clued us into a specific trail with one in Henry Cowell State Park, and after a couple hours of circling around, we stumbled on the shockingly paper-white, shrub-sized tree branching off of a coast redwood as it pulled nutrients from the larger tree into its own chlorophyll-free system. Later that day, we learned that recent research indicates that albino redwoods may not be parasitic; on the contrary, they may actually be helping the larger trees by pulling toxic metals out of the soil in exchange for nutrients– a mutualistic relationship.
When I was younger, I didn’t register how unique redwood trees are; they were simply another beautiful part of nature that I assumed existed everywhere. It was only as I grew into studying biology that I realized the miracle of these trees’ size, stature, and impact on the Earth’s function as a whole. Redwood trees are responsible for a huge chunk of carbon sequestration because of their massive size, making them a key part in maintaining our atmosphere’s balance of gases. They support elaborate ecosystems from the tips of their branches to the base of their roots, and they keep water clean and cool for freshwater organisms living in rainwater rivers and lakes throughout forests.
Old growth forests– original, natural-growing forests that have not been developed or directly impacted by humans– are critical in supporting biodiversity and in capturing more carbon from the atmosphere. Only 5% of old growth coast redwood forests remain standing today after deforestation; moving forward, learning about and protecting redwoods– especially old growth redwood forests– remains a necessity.
Save the Redwoods, an organization working towards the protection and restoration of California redwoods
In this mini-zine, learn a few more facts about these unique giants and their place on our Earth. Submit a request for one below! (suggested $1 donation to cover shipping costs)