Tall Trees

Tall Trees

Coast redwoods tower over California state park.


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Biology, Experiential Learning, Geography, Physical Geography

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In 1991, the Dyerville Giant fell to earth.

The redwood tree was 110 meters (362 feet) tall. It was taller than the Statue of Liberty. It stood in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, in California. The crash was so loud that people nearby thought it was a train accident. The redwood's fall shook the earth.

Dave Stockton is an expert on the park. He runs a group that gives tours of the area. Stockton remembered visiting the redwood the day after it fell.

He showed me the tree while walking around the park in 2010. It is just one of many amazing trees here. Redwoods are the tallest trees in the world. Some are more than 107 meters (350 feet) tall.

Rockefeller Forest

Inside Humboldt Redwoods State Park is Rockefeller Forest. It is one of the finest groves of redwoods in the world. The forest has trees of all ages. There are young redwoods called "dog hairs." They cover the ground in patches. Older redwoods have what are called "goose pens." These are large caverns in the base of the trees. The oldest trees of all are the rotting stumps. They stick out like giant teeth.

Some of the trees are covered with spiderwebs. They almost look like beards. It is fitting since the redwoods here are very old. The average redwood in Rockefeller Forest is about 600 to 800 years old. The oldest are up to 2,000 years old.

Redwoods can live so long because they have high amounts of tannin. It keeps insects away. The trees also have low amounts of resin. That helps them survive forest fires.

Threats to Redwoods

Stockton believes the greatest natural danger to the trees is high wind. The redwoods can grow very tall. However, they have a shallow root system. When it gets windy, the trees can really sway.

Humans have long used the wood of redwood trees. Some local Native American peoples built canoes and sweathouses out of the tree trunks. They used the roots to make baskets. In the 1850s, loggers harvested redwoods for buildings and railroad ties.

The forests are important to many animals. Bats often live within hollowed-out trunks. Birds build their nests in the branches. Fallen redwoods are often home to insects. The trees also provide dens for skunks and foxes.

The trail passed through a section of forest called Cathedral Grove. It had the largest redwoods of the hike. Sunlight slipped down through the branches. Stockton described what he finds most amazing about redwood forests. "It's so quiet," he said.

Fast Fact

Movie Magic
Scenes for Return of the Jedi and The Lost World: Jurassic Park were shot in California's Redwoods National and State Parks. In The Lost World, the parks stand in for the fictional Isla Sorna, a tropical island where dinosaurs roam free. In Return of the Jedi, the parks stand in for the forest moon of Endor, where ewoks roam free.

Media Credits

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Stuart Thornton
Jeannie Evers, Emdash Editing, Emdash Editing
Kara West
National Geographic Society
Last Updated

October 19, 2023

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