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Thursday, March 12, 2020

How Ancient Are California's Redwoods?

Timeline on an almost 2,000-year-old redwood tree stump outside the Humbolt State Park visitor center
on California's Avenue of the Giants.
No one knows exactly how old the biggest coast redwoods are, because nobody has ever drilled into one of them to count its annual growth rings. Botanists think that the oldest redwoods may be somewhere between two thousand and three thousand years old. They seem to be roughly the age of the Parthenon.--Richard Preston, "Climbing the Redwoods: A scientist explores a lost world over Northern California," The New Yorker, February 14, 2005

According to Richard Preston's article, the massive slice of redwood life outside Humbolt State Park's visitor center achieved a respectable long life. A seedling in 920 AD, this ancient heaved its final sigh sometime around 1928. 

It's staggering to realize this redwood's birth preceded Leif Ericsson's New World visit, in 1,000 AD, well before Columbus. Other tree ring markers depict other key historical milestones, giving visitors a visceral sense of this particular giant redwood's girth and lifespan.

The prize for the oldest tree, however, goes to a 9.550-year-old Norway spruce in Sweden, though a purist might disagree. The roots come from older stock, but its trunk is a youngster.

When it comes to "who's the oldest of them all?" the redwoods older California cousins in the White Mountains, the bristlecone pines, beat them out. The oldest bristlecone was recently carbon-dated at over 5,000 years old.
Avenue of the Giants' Immortal redwood tree.
Still, those redwoods are tough. The Immortal tree, also on the Avenue of the Giants, drives that point home with a bit of kitsch. 

The Immortal Tree reminds me of the old missing dog classified ad joke
'Lost dog. 3 legs, blind in one eye,missing right ear, tail broken, recently castrated. Answers to the name of "Lucky."'
Sign spells out the stats of the Immortal Tree in Redcrest California.
In the case of the Immortal tree, lightening cut its crown by 50 feet. The tree also survived loggers, forest fires and massive flooding.

Tough as these ancient giants are, sadly, they are no match for man. 

Once over 2 million acres of redwoods spanned the US West Coast. Now only five percent of the original old-growth coast redwood forest remains. A tree whose history traces back 200 million years, almost completely obliterated in less than 200 years.

Visit them while you still can.

Location Location
This is a recent retrospective from our sunscape February 16-28 2020. We've since returned to the Portland-Vancouver Washington area for a series of house-sits*. We've been doing them since mid-November as house-sitting gets us off the boat (which is moored nearby) and out from under the gloom of covered moorage during the already darkest days of winter. 

Meanwhile, we're still sussing out what, when and where our next adventures will be. 

*my affiliate link and a 25% membership discount to Trusted House-sitters, those house-sits we're doing other than for friends.

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