We don't often give trees the credit they're due. One of the first things many people learn about plant life is that without its life, all life on earth would be hard-pressed to survive. Trees, especially, are responsible for the oxygen in the air, the purification of the air, shade, and even sustenance for humans and animals alike. California's redwoods are the largest trees in the world and while a tree, in general, serves a major role in the ecosystem, these redwoods have their own special place in the environment.
The redwood forests of California once spanned roughly two million acres down the coastline from Big Sur all the way up to Oregon. It's believed that these trees are ancient given both their age and the spirituality surrounding their existence, as they're the largest in the world. For centuries, people stood in awe of their enormity, astounded by their incredible mass and height. After the 1850s, the many gold rushes of the West Coast wrought chaos for these forests as people cut them down to the point where only five percent of what originally existed now stands in its place. Since redwoods can live for more than 2,000 years, they've had a long history before them and will hopefully have a long history after.
The Tallest Redwood Is Named, And The Oldest-Surviving Redwood Is Thousands Of Years Old
When we think of the history of plants, it's not often that we associate them with the Roman Empire. However, the redwoods that grow in California were actually young saplings during the rise of the Romans, making them one of the oldest living organisms of any in the world. It's especially mindblowing when you realize that much of the redwood forests now are full of young trees, along with one that has exceeded the lifespan of any other tree in the world - 2,200 years old.
While this tree is the oldest, it is not the tallest. That honor goes to the Redwood affectionately known as Hyperion, which tops out at a height of 380 feet. Most Redwoods reach heights of 300 feet which makes the gargantuan height of Hyperion that much more impressive. There are three other trees that reach heights of over 360 feet: Helios, Icarus, and Daedalus, all of which have had their locations hidden for some time to avoid people seeking them out, specifically.
The Trees Themselves Are Ecosystems, And They're All Bonded Together
There's far more going on in a redwood forest than many people realize. At the tops of these trees - at heights that many can't even see from the ground - sit entire ecosystems. Moss and soil in their branches serve as communities for insects and other small, tree-dwelling animals. Some redwoods have even been found with additional plants or trees growing on their bark, making them somewhat of an Inception-type of tree situation.
What you don't see underneath the soil is the roots of the Redwood trees; at roughly six to 12 feet below the surface, the redwood roots stop burrowing down and start intertwining with other trees around it. This means that each tree is intertwined with another, which helps to give them stability and structure as a forest.
Symbiotic Helper Trees... In More Ways Than One
White, colorless trees have also been found amongst the Redwoods, nicknamed 'ghost' redwoods, which are comprised of metals such as copper, nickel, and cadmium. It's been determined that these unusual specimens actually have a symbiotic relationship with the redwoods. An exchange of protection and much-needed sugar between the two was the final conclusion as to why they grow so close together.
It's no secret that climate change is now an issue that's at the forefront of many country's minds. The U.S. has a tool to combat this and it's found right in California's redwood forests. These massive trees are responsible for storing more carbon dioxide than any other forest in the world, with 2,600 metric tons per every 2.4 acres, according to Treehugger. This natural CO2-storing power is unbelievable in the face of global warming, as it's nature's gifts such as these that can help to fight, and possibly slow down, all of the changes that climate change is bringing about so rapidly now. The rate at which these trees absorb CO2 is more than double many of the other trees in California alone, which means if redwood trees were able to be planted worldwide and could be sustained throughout the U.S., we would have a worthy opponent for climate change.