(Host) America’s gigantic west coast sequoia trees survive in just four percent of their historic range. Commentator Ruth Page describes some of the wonders of their long lives.
(Page) Frederick Law Olmstead once said of the West Coast redwood trees, “These venerable forests, the oldest, largest and most impressive of all living things, when once cut will probably never more be seen by man.” To me that seems worse than saying, “There will never be another rhinocerus.”
In the 1800s, the trees covered two million acres, from the mid-California coast to southern Oregon. Today, there are only eighty thousand acres, just four percent of the ancient forest that gave power and majesty to our West Coast.
Teddy Roosevelt, the first of our presidents who understood the need to protect the natural wonders of America, called them “monuments of beauty.” Magnificent coast redwoods can grow to 368 feet tall, topping the U.S. Capitol by 81 feet. The trees’ trunks can be fifteen feet wide and in the best part of their range, the giants live more than two thousand years.
The giant sequoias don’t grow quite as tall, but their trunks can be twelve yards wide. I remember when we were kids and our geography books showed cars driving straight through the trunk of a living sequoia, which ignored those ants between its feet.
Fires caused by lightning can destroy young trees, but the old monsters survive. The Save the Redwoods League has been try-ing to protect some of the second-growth forests to give them a chance to mature and withstand fire and flood as their aged parents do.
In the 1930s one Lucille MacDonald rode her horse to a superb redwood and sat there unmoving, so loggers couldn’t cut it down. That tree still stands.
MacDonald’s grand-daughter, also named Lucille, has spent thirty years battling for the hoary giants. She even traveled to Washington to talk with a Senate committee in support of creating a Redwood National Park.
Along their narrow range on the West Coast, the trees thrive because temperatures are moderate, and dense fog and heavy rains provide the moisture that allows them to absorb nutrients right to their towering tops.
How like Nature to start these natural edifices from tiny seeds growing within one-inch-wide cones. Sprouts of baby red-woods also appear at the bases of the giants, sometimes making what are called “cathedral circles” of young trees.
So our country is home to the world’s tallest trees, the Coast Redwoods, and the most massive, the giant sequoias. Both belong to the genus sequoia. The oldest sequoias have been dated at two thousand five hundred years. Humans are mere infants.
This is Ruth Page, describing a natural wonder of the plant world that’s surely as worth protecting as the whales and pandas of the animal world.