During the Cretaceous period, and through the Tertiary, coast redwoods were widely spread across the northern hemisphere. As the climate changed, and the whole change of plant communities took over, the redwoods became limited to its present natural range of a thin strip along the west coast from southern Oregon, south about 450 miles in scattered pockets, and varying between 5 to 35 miles wide. This is a "relic" tree species. Along the coast, the temperatures remain pretty constant, in the 45 to 65 degree range, with plentiful rain. Fog adds a significant amount of moisture to the trees, which does greatly influence their natural range.
The coastal redwood grows best on rich deep soils with plenty of moisture. This is where the largest trees grow, along the creeks and rivers. Of the remaining relic stands of giants, it is common to find trees in the 200 to 300 foot size, and up to 2,000 years old. Because they live where water is usually plentiful, the root system is very shallow. Without the fog and the good deep soils, the redwood is small and grows poorly. This is one of those trees that can tolerate very heavy shade, but it will grow very slowly too. And it can grow in full sun, and given plenty of water, they can grow very fast. Growth of four to six feet a year is very possible.
The leaves are really more like large scales with a lacey appearance. In hot full sun, these scales and foliage are small and tightly arranged on the stem. This is partly a water conserving effort, but the leaf tissues are very inefficient at holding it.
Redwood flowers are nothing to speak of, very inconspicuous, but the fruit is an oval woody cone about an inch in size. The seeds are technically more like a nut than a samara, although they have a seed-wing type structure surrounding them. They look more like a brown to red burnt potatoe chip about 1/8 inch in size. The seeds will number about 120,000 per pound, and trees as young as 5 years old will bear sound seed. The seed quality is very low, so if you get a few seedlings out of a hundred seeds, then you're doing well.
Something that is different with this ancient tree species, is that once cut, they will resprout. Sprouts on cut redwood stumps can grow eight to ten feet a year, and the stump is usually surrounded with sprouts, making a solid evergreen hedge for several years.
Because the tree has valuable rot-resistant wood, easy work, light but somewhat brittle, it is planted worldwide in plantations. There are pockets in Italy, Africa, and the south Pacific where coast redwoods are growing for wood. The old-growth wood is increasingly valuable and used where the wood is exposed to the weather. Fences, panelling, novelties, and decking, is what most of the redwood is used for. The second-growth wood is perfectly fine to use, and soon will be the only available choice. Because the wood is grown from fast growing trees, versus the slowly grown old-growth trees, the tree rings are wider, making the wood structurally weaker.
As a very attractive tree, it has a great appeal for planting in the landscape design. Plant in clumps or as a stand-alone specimen, or they can be planted as a solid wall or screen. The roots are shallow, so they may not be the strongest wind barrier by themselves. Pleasant smelling foliage, and attractive red fiberous bark makes redwood a nice tree. They will grow fast and get large, so plenty of room is needed. They do need water, lots of it, like a poplar or willow, so poorly drained and wet soils are good places to plant them. Full sun to full shade, and they can go down to Zone 7.
Since these are very popular in the ornamental or landscaping industry, a number of hybrids have been developed. Ever see a Blue Redwood? Like a Colorado Blue Spruce has a bluish-green hue, the Coastal Redwood hybrids, like the Aptos Blue and the Albo-spicata also have bluish tones. Very different, and definitely interesting!
One of the most massive and impressive trees, the Coastal Redwood is a relic tree with a new prospectus. The Coast Red is produced in vast quantities, popularly hybridized, so its survival is very solid!
Coast Redwood - Hardy, grows up to 100 feet tall, and plantable from Zones 7 to 10. Not very cold-tolerant, but they do well in full shade to full sun, and can be very fast growing. Good for wet areas, with red fiberous bark, these are attractive and interesting in any landscaping design. Also good for windbreaks, screens, or as specimens. Great for bonsai or container-planting, especially if grown in a greenhouse in the colder northern regions. Ships well all season, even during the summer (but go faster delivery...please).
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