Redwood forests – the natural cathedrals

United States, California. Muir Woods National Monument is an an old-growth coastal redwood forest north of San Francisco. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

United States, California. Muir Woods National Monument, a cathedral of trees. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

It’s hard to visit a redwood forest without beeing in awe of the size and age of these prehistoric but fortunately still living giants, some can be as high as 115m and as old as 3.500 years. Their lineage can be followed back to the time of dinosaurs, when the redwood species of that time were the dominant trees in the forests of North America.

Redwood species

United States, California. Muir Woods National Monument is an an old-growth coastal redwood forest north of San Francisco. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

United States, California. Muir Woods National Monument is an an old-growth coastal redwood forest north of San Francisco. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Today there are tree remaining species of the Sequoioideae family; Giant Sequoia, the Coast Redwood and the Dawn Redwood.

The Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) or just Sequoia, is found in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. In terms of volume these are the largest trees in the world, with a record of 95m height and 17m in diameter. The oldest ever found is 3.500 years old.

Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia) is the least tall of the redwoods, but still can reach a height of 60m. It is native to China and was only known from fossils until it was rediscovered in the Sichuan–Hubei region in 1944.

United States, California. Muir Woods National Monument is an an old-growth coastal redwood forest north of San Francisco. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

United States, California. Muir Woods National Monument. A panorama image from the ground up. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

The Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) or just Redwood is today only found on a narrow strip along the Pacific coast of Northern California and the southwestern corner of Oregon. Redwoods are the tallest trees in the world, with a record of 115.6m belonging to a tree known as Hyperion in the Redwood National Park. The oldest has been found to be about 2.200 years old. Typically the lifetime reaches 500-1000 years. Extensive logging has since 1850 reduced the original old-growth redwood forests by as much as 95%.

United States, California. Muir Woods National Monument is an an old-growth coastal redwood forest north of San Francisco. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

United States, California. Muir Woods National Monument. Sunlight filtered through the redwood trees. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Coast Redwoods depend heavily on the coastal fog to supply much of the tree’s water needs, and the tallest and oldest trees are found close to streams and where there are regular fog. They dont like salt spray and wind, so few redwoods grow very close to the sea. Reproduction is done either by seed or by sprouting from the root, fallen branches or using burls.

Muir Woods Redwood Forest

United States, California. Muir Woods National Monument is an an old-growth coastal redwood forest north of San Francisco. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

United States, California. Muir Woods National Monument. The thick bark protects the trees from forest fires. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

I shot these images during a visit to the Muir Woods National Monument earlier this year. This is a lovely old-growth coastal redwood forest just 19km north of San Francisco. The area receives a regular supply of coastal fog, as well as heavy rainfall during the winter months. The relative inaccessibility of the area have protected the forest from beeing cut down. U.S. Congressman William Kent purchased much of the land to protect the redwoods and mountain, and in 1908 it was declared as a National Monument by President Theodore Roosevelt. Kent named the monument after naturalist John Muir, who helped to establish the National Park system.

United States, California. Muir Woods National Monument is an an old-growth coastal redwood forest north of San Francisco. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

United States, California. Muir Woods National Monument. Young tree branches. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

The tallest tree in Muir Woods is 79m, with an average age of the trees between 500 to 800 years, the oldest probably more than 1.200 years.

If you are in the San Francisco area I really recommend a visit to this park, or any of the other Redwood forests in California.

Photographers should bring a wide angle lens, and also a tripod if possible. Remember, these trees are massive and the ground receives little sunlight, so you may have to push those ISO values up a bit. Another challenge may be to set the correct colour balance, as the sunlight passes through a great deal of green canopy.

United States, California. Muir Woods National Monument is an an old-growth coastal redwood forest north of San Francisco. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

United States, California. Muir Woods National Monument. The ground lies in deep shadow under the trees. A stream helps supply the area with water. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Internet link:
National Park Services: Muir Woods

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