In a warmer, wetter world, the genus Sequoia could be found in broad swaths across the northern hemisphere. Today they are refugees on the edges of northern California, where they are protected by mild temperatures and bathed in coastal fog. These trees are among the tallest in the world, the tallest stretching 379 feet towards the sun. Coast redwood are also exceptionally long lived. While 500-700 years is most common, many redwoods are more than 1,000 and some more than 2,000 years old. These sempervirens (“evergreen,” or as some like to interpret, “ever living”) are remarkably resilient, resistant to rot and insects, able survive fire and wind torn tops. Unfortunately, they are not so fast growing that they could keep up with the tremendous pace of logging in the 19th century, which reduced the remaining redwood groves to 4% of their extent.
Redwoods are widely planted, and many are to be found around Portland. Three Sequoia sempervirens grace the Heritage Tree list, as do seven of their near cousins Sequoiadendron giganteum (including #125 on the Arbor Month Heritage Treesure Map). In a visit to #301, the largest coast redwood the list, with its tiny cones and feathery foliage, I was most struck by how commonplace the tree seemed. Guarding the entrance to a parking lot, I could have walked right past it. Perhaps inPortland it is too easy to take remarkable trees for granted.