Personal photo taken near Prairie Creek State Park

Where in the world is Sequoia sempervirens?

          The coast redwoods are native to North America, and although the species has been grown in other areas, it naturally occurs in only one place in the world: a 724 km (450 mi) strip along the Pacific Coast of North America.  The strip is about 8 to 56 km (5-35 mi) wide. This strip begins in southwestern Oregon and extends down the coast, just south of Monterey in northwestern California. The trees grow especially well in the mild climate zone, because of the even temperature and high level of moisture from the winter rains and summer fog. Recently, redwoods appear to be receding  in the southern part of their range, and expanding to the north.

Personal photo of Pacific coast of California near Prairie Creek Redwood State Park           Personal photo of Pacific coast of California near Prairie Creek Redwood State Park

          Though fog is not exactly essential for redwoods, the forests would be more restricted within their range without its cooling and dampening properties. These coastal fogs help to protect the redwoods from drought and heat during summer. The frequent fogs in summer appear to be more important than the amount of precipitation to this species of tree. Fog moderates conditions by dropping temperature and increasing relative humidity. By absorbing the fog on their branches, the trees decrease water loss from evaporation and transpiration. Large redwoods transpire hundreds of gallons of water vapor into the air through their foliage daily. In addition, they contribute moisture to the soil in dry periods during the summer.

Personal photo of dense coastal fog over the coast redwoods in Prairie Creek Redwood State Park                      Personal photo of dense coastal fog over the coast redwoods in Prairie Creek Redwood State Park

     The trees occupy sheltered, moist places with rich soil as far inland from the Pacific Ocean as the fog drift and up the coastal mountainsides. The elevations at which this species grows are normally below 300 meters, but they occasionally reach 1,000 meters (3,300 feet). Within the region, redwood trees could grow on an estimated 1.6 million acres. Approximately 643,000 acres consist of coast redwoods used for profit. The rest of the area contains mainly parks and other forest types containing redwoods. The old-growth redwood, much of which is in State and National Parks, occupies less than 200,000 acres.

Picture of the distribution of the coast redwood found at:
          Other redwood species, possibly ancestors of Sequoia sempervirens, were once much more widespread than they are today. Paleobotanists have exposed fossil redwoods from around the western United States and Canada, Northern Mexico, and along the coasts of Europe and Asia. Based on the fossil record, redwoods have been in their present range for about 20 million years. Some think the last ice age could have forced the coast redwoods into this area. In addition, redwood foliage wilts in high temperatures and may be killed by hard frost, so the North Coast’s mild climate is probably the main limiting factor on the distribution of the coast redwoods. Old-growth redwood forest today occupies less than 5% of the original redwood forest. The largest surviving stands of old-growth coast redwood forest are at Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Redwood National and State Parks, and Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Other State Parks with coast redwoods include Jedediah Smith Redwoods, Prairie Creek Redwoods, and Montgomery Woods.

Video: Coast Redwood and the Pacific Coast


Now that you understand where the coast redwood is found, check out Adaptations.

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