Redwoods are the tallest trees in the world. They grow to heights over 110 metres (360 feet). These trees can survive for up to 2000 years. Fossil records have revealed that the northern hemisphere was once covered with vast areas of these forests.
The climatic changes over millions of years have not been kind to these Redwoods. In order to grow they require moist, damp conditions, with an absence of large variations in temperature. Only three types of redwoods have survived from a common ancestor : Coast Redwoods, Dawn Redwood, and Giant Sequoia. Dawn Redwood still grows in remote valleys in China. Giant Sequoia, which have recently survived raging fires, grow in groves along the High Sierra, in California.
The climatic conditions along a stretch of coastline from Brookings, Oregon, to Monterey, California are ideal for the growth of these trees. Fog plays an important part in their survival. The fog acts as a welcome heat insulator, a virtual blanket, as temperatures drop in the winter evening. The presence of fog in the summer also shields the trees from high temperatures. . Inland pockets of these trees also exist in foggy canyons.
This reduction in extremes of temperature also permits the growth and the survival of other plants, such as lilies and orchids.
For such tall trees, they have very shallow root systems, very rarely going to a depth over 2 metres. However, the area covered by the root system can stretch to very large areas. The root systems of the trees join together, and it is difficult to distinguish one root system from one tree from another. These provides a virtual trampoline effect when buffeted by high winds, are being subject to floods.
The Coast Redwoods are very resistant to natural disasters. The thick bark provides superb heat insulation properties. While many of their natural competitors perish in fires, floods and gales, the redwoods survive. The trees contain no sap, but do contain tannic acids, which are very toxic and resist virtually all attacks by insects and fungi.
The high percentage of tannin also reduce the onset of rot for hundreds of years, after they die.