Sequoia sempervirens

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 Sequoia sempervirens subsp. var.  Californian redwood, Coast redwood
Del Norte Titan, the fourth largest coast redwood.
Habit: tree
Height: to
Width: to
150ft 15ft25ft
Height: warning.png"" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki. to 150 ft
Width: 15 ft to 25 ft
Lifespan: perennial
Exposure: sun
Water: moist
Features: evergreen
Hidden fields, interally pass variables to right place
Minimum Temp: °Fwarning.png"°F" is not a number.
USDA Zones: 8 to 10
Sunset Zones:
Flower features:
Cupressaceae > Sequoia sempervirens var. ,

Sequoia sempervirens (sɛkwɔɪ.ə ˌsɛmpərˈvɪrənz)[1] is the sole living species of the genus Sequoia in the cypress family Cupressaceae (formerly treated in Taxodiaceae). Common names include coast redwood, giant redwood and California redwood (it is one of three species of trees known as redwoods, but redwood per se normally refers to this species). It is an evergreen, long-lived, monoecious tree living for up to 2,200 years, and this species includes the tallest trees on Earth, reaching up to 115.5 m (379.1 ft) in height and 8 m (26 ft) diameter at breast height. It is native to coastal California and the southwestern corner of Oregon within the United States.

The name sequoia is sometimes used as a general term for the subfamily Sequoioideae in which this genus is classified, together with Sequoiadendron (Giant Sequoia) and Metasequoia (Dawn Redwood); as a common name, it usually refers to Sequoiadendron.

Coast redwoods have a conical crown, with horizontal to slightly drooping branches. The bark is very thick, up to 30 cm (12 in), and quite soft, fibrous with a bright red-brown when freshly exposed (hence the name redwood), weathering darker. The root system is composed of shallow, wide-spreading lateral roots. The leaves are variable, being 15 – 25 mm long and flat on young trees and shaded shoots in the lower crown of old trees, and scale-like, 5 – 10 mm long on shoots in full sun in the upper crown of older trees; there is a full range of transition between the two extremes. They are dark green above, and with two blue-white stomatal bands below. Leaf arrangement is spiral, but the larger shade leaves are twisted at the base to lie in a flat plane for maximum light capture. The seed cones are ovoid, 15 – 32 mm long, with 15–25 spirally arranged scales; pollination is in late winter with maturation about 8–9 months after. Each cone scale bears 3–7 seeds, each seed 3 – 4 mm long and 0.5 mm in broad, with two wings 1 mm in wide. The seeds are released when the cone scales dry out and open at maturity. The pollen cones are oval, 4 – 6 mm long. The species is monoecious, with pollen and seed cones on the same plant.

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Sequoia sempervirens, Endl. California Redwood. Tree 100 to 340 ft. high, with trunk 10-25 ft. in diam. and often clear of limbs for 100 ft. in mature specimens, the narrow crown with horizontal or downward- sweeping branches: lvs. linear, mostly 1/2 – 1 in. long, 1-1 1/4 lines wide, spreading in flat sprays, or the upper lvs. and those on main st. of the branches often only 1-5 lines long and awl-shaped: cone oval, 3/4 – 1 1/8 in. long, 1/2 – 3/4 in. broad, maturing the first autumn; scales 14-26; seeds elliptic, narrowly margined, 2 lines long. Confined to northern and central Coast Ranges of Calif. on slopes exposed to sea influences. Gn. 76, p. 172. G.W. 13, p. 331; 14, p. 511.—Reproduces by seeds and by stump-sprouts, the latter numerous and remarkably persistent, often producing merchantable lumber. Var. glauca, Hort. Foliage with a decidedly bluish cast. CH

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.

Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Sequoia (after Sequoyah, otherwise George Guess, a Cherokee half-breed of Georgia, about 1770-1843, originator of the Cherokee alphabet). Pinaceae. Big Trees Of California. Redwood. Tall massive often gigantic forest trees, grown as ornamental evergreens in Europe, in California, and to a limited extent in the eastern states; of chief interest because of their great age and large size. S. gigantea is the most massive of all trees, although exceeded in girth by several others, notably the African baobab. S. sempervirens holds the record as the tallest tree in the world, at least so far as actual measurements have been made, one specimen in Humboldt County, California, measuring 340 feet, according to Sargent. Greater heights assigned to species of Eucalyptus were erroneous (see note under E. amygdalina var. regnans. Vol. II, p. 1157).

Large trees with thick red fibrous and deeply grooved bark: heartwood dark red, soft, durable, straight-grained; sapwood thin and nearly white: lvs. persistent, alternate, linear or awl-shaped or scale-like, often dimorphic: fls. monoecious; staminate catkins axillary and terminal, each of the numerous spirally arranged stamens bearing 2-5 pollen-sacs; pistillate catkins terminal, composed of many spirally arranged scales, each with 4-7 ovules at base: cone woody, persistent, the divergent scales widened at summit which is rhomboidal, wrinkled, and with a depressed center; seeds flattened; cotyledons 2.

The sequoias.

The two great sequoias of California have a place of their own in science, history, and literature. Haenke, the botanist of the Malaspina expedition of 1791, first collected S. sempervirens, the coast redwood of California. Four years later Menzies, of the Vancouver expedition, secured specimens near Santa Cruz. Lambert published it in 1824 as Taxodium sempervirens. Douglas referred it to the same group, but in 1847 Endlicher created the separate genus Sequoia.

Two living sequoias, S. sempervirens and S. gigantea, are all that remain of many species that flourished in Tertiary times over a large part of the northern hemisphere. More than forty fossil species have been discovered, but there is still much confusion in regard to the botany of the extinct kinds. They have been found, however, from Italy north to Spitzbergen, and across northern Asia. Several now extinct species, such as S. angustifolia, S. Heerii, and S. Langsdorfii, grew in California and Oregon in Miocene times. Asa Gray and others have told the story of the rise and fall of this great family of conifers, which was once as abundant as any tree-group in the world, but was cut off, swept away, destroyed by the glacial age, and survived only in parts of California. The S. sempervirens seems to be a descendant of the fossil S. Langsdorfii; S. gigantea appears related to the fossil S. Sternbergii. The famous petrified forest of Arizona was a species of Sequoia, according to the United States Geological Survey. These Arizonian giants which grew millions of years ago, went down under a permanent ocean, were covered with sandstone, and rose again with the present continent. In like manner vast periods of time lie between the present forests of sequoias and their ancient representatives. The value and interest of these wonderful trees are greatly increased by reason of their botanical and historical importance.

At the present time the coast redwood occupies only a narrow belt of country near the Pacific Ocean, nor is it continuous even there; the giant redwood, or California big tree, exists only in a few small and isolated groves, scattered over less than 60 square miles in all, extending along the western side of the Sierra Nevada range. Compared with the enormous territory once occupied by now extinct species of sequoia, the modern representatives of this ancient and honorable family are reduced to a very small area.

The first-known of the sequoias, and much the more valuable species, economically speaking, was S. sempervirens, the coast redwood of California. This is one of the most important timber trees of the world, and its forests, comparatively limited in area, have yielded and are still yielding, the most easily obtained, the most durable and profitable fencing and building lumber of the Pacific coast. The reproductive powers of the tree are enormous; no other known conifer so persistently sprouts from the stump, so rapidly makes new forests, or so well resists fire. But it does not thrive farther inland than the limits of the sea-fog, and a large part of the original area covered by this noble tree has been denuded by successive fires and destructive lumbering methods. Small redwood forests occur in Monterey County, but the most southern forests of commercial importance are in Santa Cruz. The belt, broken by the Bay of San Francisco, extends north through Marin, Sonoma, Mendocino, Humboldt, and Del Norte, and a few miles across into the southern borders of Oregon, which state contains about 400 acres of redwoods. The real redwood forests are all contained within a strip of coastlands 450 miles long and rarely more than 20 miles wide. The actual bodies of redwood within this region are merely a chain of isolated groups separated by clearings or by large areas on which redwoods never grew. A small grove, now practically destroyed, existed fifty years ago on the east side of the Bay of San Francisco, in Alameda County. Well-borers have found redwood logs in a perfect state of preservation in various parts of the Coast Range far south of where the trees now grow, even to Los Angeles and San Diego, showing that in some former period of greater rainfall and more sea-fog, redwood forests extended much farther down the coast.

The climate where the redwood thrives is comparatively equable, marked by fogs and cool summer winds from the southwest. The tree delights in rich sheltered mountain valleys and fertile slopes, in dripping fogs and in heavy winter rains. Going east from the ocean, in the redwood region, one suddenly comes to the top of a ridge, to overlook oaks and pines, and at once reaches the plainly marked edge of the S. sempervirens forest.

While S. sempervirens is sometimes called second in size among the giant conifers of the Pacific coast, the tallest tree yet authentically measured is 340 feet high, exceeding in height the tallest living tree of the Sierra species, and it is probable that trees exist which rise to nearly 400 feet, and therefore deserve to take first place among the conifers. Many trees of 20 and even 22 feet in diameter at 5 feet from the ground, and from 300 to 325 feet in height, are still standing in the redwood forests. The finest groves of redwoods contain many specimens that range from 150 to 250 feet or more in height and have a diameter of 12 to 18 feet. In such forests the trunks rise in clear red-brown shafts to a height of 75 to 150 feet before they branch; they stand so close that the masses of timber that exist on each acre are greater than are found in any other known forest, and through their far-distant tops the sun seldom reaches the warm sheltered soil of the Coast Range canons. With proper management, under the principles of scientific forestry, the redwood region as it exists today could be maintained, and its future yield greatly increased, but otherwise in forty or fifty years the commercial value of the entire area will be practically destroyed.

The annual output of the redwood forests of California has steadily increased in recent years until now (1916) it approximates 25,000,000 feet, board measure (The Pioneer Lumberman statistics). Stands of 250,000 feet, board measure, to the acre are not uncommon. One tree is on record as having yielded 480,000 feet of merchantable lumber.

Nearly all of the coast redwood is in private hands, but the state of California in 1901 appropriated $250,000 to create a "redwood park" in the famous Big Basin of Santa Cruz County. Here, at the present time (1916) the state owns and cares for 3,800 acres, 1,500 of which are dense virgin forest, and much of the rest is thinly timbered. The possibilities of this superb and easily accessible park are very great. It was secured for the people by the efforts of many organizations and individuals, chief among which were the Sempervirens Club, and the late Professor Dudley of Stanford.

The Muir Grove of 295 acres is a fine forest in Redwood Canon, Marin County, on the south side of Tamalpais, which was the gift of the Hon. William Kent to the nation. The Bohemian Club Grove on Russian River will probably remain uncut for generations. The beautiful Armstrong Woods in the same region have been offered to the state of California, but have not yet been purchased.

The S. sempervirens, even more than S. gigantea, is connected historically with many and great names. Not only Haenke, Menzies, and Douglas, but also Coulter and Hartweg aided in its introduction to Europe, where numerous horticultural varieties are in cultivation. S. sempervirens var. adpressa, Carr., is a smaller tree than the type form, with creamy white younger leaves and more glaucescent older leaves. It is called in California the "white redwood" and the "silverleaf redwood." Other horticultural varieties in cultivation are known as S. gracilis, S. taxifolia, S. picta; S. albo-spica, and S. glauca. The golden forms found in many other conifers occasionally appear, but cannot yet be called fixed. No really dwarf redwood is yet extant. Larger-leaved or more compact forms can be selected from the forest, and the tree responds easily to selection and culture. It thrives in gardens in the Sacramento Valley, in the Sierra foothills, and in many parts of southern California, so that its range for ornamental uses can be greatly extended on the Pacific coast. It has been largely planted in Europe, particularly in English parks, and, as was to have been expected, does best in well-drained rich soil near the ocean but sheltered from cold winds.

The most famous of the sequoias and certainly the most widely known of all living conifers is the great redwood of the Sierras, S. gigantea. It is undoubtedly one of the rarest of all living species of trees and one of the most easily visited and studied. It is the best living representation in the whole world of a past geologic age, and it is the most noble and impressive of trees. The interest attached to this sequoia is therefore distinctly international, and an immense body of literature has gathered about it.

Jepson, in his "Silva of California," 1910, lists thirty-one known groves of big trees in the California Sierras, containing 86,499 trees. While private owners control much of these areas, still a large part is in the National Forests and Parks, where, under protection, the safety of the tree is assured and reproduction is excellent. In the Fresno grove, for example (Sierra National Forest), thousands of young trees are now growing. The low vitality of the seeds of S. gigantea, long a matter of complaint among nurserymen, appears to be less marked than formerly, and nearly all the groves show young trees.

The measurements of standing trees and the age-estimate made in the last decade have materially altered former conclusions. Sudworth has published an excellent table of measurements in the Calaveras Grove, and Jepson has supplemented them with measurements elsewhere. Sudworth measured thirty trees which were from 9 to 19 1/2 feet in diameter 6 feet above the ground, and from 237 to 325 feet high. Former measurements were generally taken at the surface of the ground and hence were most misleading. A tree in Giant Forest, on the Kaweah, for example, measured (in circumference) at the surface of the ground 72 feet, but at 11 feet, where the bulge ceased, and the true shaft began, was but 57 5/12 feet in circumference. The famous Boole tree, in Fresno County, girths 109 9/12 feet at the surface, and 77 feet at 10 feet from the ground.

The problem of the age of the sequoias has long occupied the attention of students; popular literature has reveled in extravagant statements on this subject, so that many persons believe that trees now standing were in existence before the pyramids were built. As regards the coast redwood, so many trees have been cut and the rings counted that its age is now well known; this species lives from 400 to 1,300 years, or may possibly reach 1,500 years in a few cases. In respect to the Sierra redwoods, S. gigantea, the heavy logging done in recent years on private lands has enabled foresters to make careful age-determination. They find that mature trees range from 400 to 1,500 years. It remains to determine the resisting powers of mature trees. A few old fallen trees have been found whose rings showed ages of 2,200 to 2,300 years. John Muir estimated a partly burned tree at 4,000 years, but this is open to discussion.

The economic value of the coast redwood is so high that every principle of wise conservation requires more careful management of private forests, more complete reproduction and the reforesting of cut-over areas. Little attention has yet been paid to the by-products from the present waste which technical chemists are able to make profitable. This is also true of the S. gigantea when lumbered on private lands; the beauty and durability of the timber, and the value of its possible by-products make care in reforesting eminently desirable. Pencil manufacturers are beginning to use the wood of selected trees of S. gigantea. The rapidity of growth of both sequoias when young, and when favorably situated, is so great that the forestry of the future is likely to extend rather than diminish these forests. CH

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.



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  1. Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607

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