There are more than 600 conifer species in the world. The world's tallest tree, the Coast redwood, is a conifer. Its botanical name is Sequoia sempervirens. The closest relatives of the Coast redwood are the Giant sequoia and the Dawn redwood. The Dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) only grows naturally now in small pockets of China. The Giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron gigantea) is only found in the western Sierra Nevada. The Giant sequoia is the world's largest living organism, but not the tallest.
Even within the "Coast redwood" classification the trees are not uniform and can be further divided into "northern, central and southern." These distinctions are based on such characteristics as: frost tolerance, rate of growth, wood specific gravity and chemicals in the trees' resin. Interestingly, redwoods have SIX sets of chromosones (most organisms have only two sets). This is one way in which the redwoods are all the same!
I don't usually give the Latin botanical names for trees, but I have in this case to help underscore how tricky it is to get the nomenclature right when talking about 'redwoods' and 'sequoias.' By the way, there is an excellent book, "Coast Redwood: A Natural and Cultural History" edited by John Evarts and Marjorie Popper if you would like to learn more details about these glorious trees.
There are flowers associated with the Coast redwood groves. These are: bleeding heart, the Western azalea, redwood lily and redwood sorrell. I saw a great deal of the sorrell and mistakenly believed they were very robust clover! And, of course, there are FERNS. Ferns are much older than redwoods, believed to have evolved over 300 million years ago. But once redwoods appeared on the scene ferns and redwoods began to grow together (about 65 to 135 million years ago).
I was lucky enough to spend two weeks camping in the redwoods recently in Humboldt Redwoods State Park and Jedidiah Smith State Park (both in California). All I can tell you for sure is that the experience was blissful. Below are some photos I took.
Trees die for a variety of reasons: they can be deliberately killed by humans wielding chain saws, axes or back hoes. They can be eaten alive by biological 'pests.' Or they can die from generally unfavorable environmental conditions. I've been travelling in the Southwest for the past few weeks and have found myself drawn many times to the beauty of a tree whose life was claimed by lack of water and/or extreme heat. A few of them are in the pictures above. Top left was taken at Natural Bridges National Monument, bottom left was taken at Canyon de Chelly.
I find these trees 'beautiful' on two levels: one, the 'nobility' I can read as their life story as they struggled to maintain their lives in the face of extreme adversity leading to death and, two, the abstract visual beauty they exhibit after their deaths. I believe Georgia O'Keeffee was drawn to skulls and bones bleached and scoured by the wind and sun of the New Mexican plains in a similar way. About her depiction of the bones in her painting, "Cow's Skull with Calico Roses," she said "To me they are as beautiful as anything I know."
Trees, so beautiful while living, retain a graceful beauty after death as well.
Ruthie photographs trees because she loves them.
October 13 from
11am - 3pm
Mountain Made Gallery
Old Airport Rd.
November 16 - 18
"Tis the Season"
Holiday Fair at
David Event Center
761 New Boyleston Highway
333 Thompson St.