Sequoia sempervirens / coast redwood

Sequoia sempervirens, as described in 1847 by (D. Don) Stephan Friedrich Ladislaus Endlicher (1804–1849), in Synopsis Coniferarum, 198th edition, is commonly known as coast redwood, redwood, or California redwood; as well as palo colorado in the Spanish language. The species literally means "evergreen" in the Latin language.

The Arco Giant, one of the largest known redwoods, illustration by Robert Van Pelt.
The Arco Giant, one of the largest known redwoods, illustration by Robert Van Pelt.

Description. Coast redwood is an evergreen, coniferous species of tree that grows to mature heights of 200 to 325 feet (60 – 100 m) tall; with a massive, slightly tapering trunk, that measures up to 10 to 15 feet (300 – 460 cm) or more in diameter, measured at breast height.

  • Trunks are impressively buttressed at the base and often display rounded swellings or burls.
  • Crown is conic and monopodial when young, becoming narrowly conical, irregular and open with age.
  • Bark is red-brown in color, with a thick, tough and fibrous texture, up to circa 14 inches (35 cm) thick, deeply furrowed into broad, scaly ridges; inner bark is cinnamon-brown.
  • Branches sweep downward to slightly ascending.
  • Twigs are slender, dark green in color, forking in a plane, and ending in a scaly bud.
  • Leaves (needles) measure 0.04 to 1.2 inches (1 – 30 mm) long, generally with lines of stomata on both surfaces. Those seen on leaders, ascending branchlets, and fertile shoots are divergent to strongly appressed, short-lanceolate to deltate shaped. Those on horizontally spreading to drooping branchlets mostly linear to linear-lanceolate shaped, divergent and in held in 2 ranks, with 2 prominent, white abaxial stomatal bands.
  • Pollen cones nearly globose to ovoid shaped, measuring 0.08 to 0.2 inch (2 – 5 mm) log, borne singly on short terminals or axillary stalks.
  • Seed cones measure 0.48 to 1.4 inches (12 – 35 mm) long, elliptically shaped, and reddish-brown in color, with many flat, short-pointed scales. Cones are borne pendant at the ends of leafy twigs; maturing in one season.
  • Seeds are flattened, 0.12 to 0.24 inch (3 – 6 mm) long, and leathery.
<em>Sequoia sempervirens </em>— Species Range Map from US Department of Agriculture (map in the Public Domain)
Sequoia sempervirens — Species Range Map from US Department of Agriculture (map in the Public Domain)

Distribution. This species is native to USA — southwestern Oregon and northwestern California, confined to coastal areas (within 40 miles/60 km of the sea) experiencing a great deal of fog; at elevations generally below 1,000 feet (300 m) above sea level, occasionally higher. It is mostly found in alluvial soils, where it forms pure stands or occurs with Pseudotsuga menziesii, Chamaecyparis lawsoniana, or other local conifers.

Hardy to USDA Zone 8 — cold hardiness limit between 10° and 20°F (-12.1° and -6.7°C).

Attribution from: Frank D. Watson; Taxodiaceae - Flora of North America Editorial Committee (editors); Flora of North America North of Mexico, Vol. 2; ©1993, Oxford University Press.

Sequoia sempervirens — park trees - Sequoiadendron giganteum (L); sequoia sempervirens (R), Stanley Park, Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca
Sequoia sempervirens — photo from northern California provided by Mono Andes
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca
Sequoia sempervirens — photo from northern California provided by Mono Andes
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca
Sequoia sempervirens — photo from northern California provided by Mono Andes
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca
Sequoia sempervirens — foliage in the spring
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca
Sequoia sempervirens — foliage in one plane, male pollen cones at the tips of branches
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca
Sequoia sempervirens — foliage plus a seed cone
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca
Sequoia sempervirens — open coast redwood cones after having dropped seeds
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca
Sequoia sempervirens — comparison of foliage of 3 Sequoioidae genera
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca
Sequoia sempervirens — furrowed trunk of a mature tree
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca
Sequoia sempervirens — park trees - Sequoiadendron giganteum (L); sequoia sempervirens (R), Stanley Park, Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Photo by Blake Willson, courtesy of TreeLib.ca

Comments

Suzanne Mahoney

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Bought Sequoia sempervirens "Atlantica" at recent regional meeting. Cant't find it listed in my books or this site. Know anything about it?

Maxwell Cohn

Hi Suzanne ... there has never been a cultivar named: 'Atlantica' in this species. Are you maybe looking at a mispelled 'Adpressa' ???

Warrick Rumley

Hi, I have three Coastal redwoods growing, about 14 foot tall and they keep sprouting second or third “trunks” from the base of the original just above ground level. Is this normal ?, do I just keep pruning them off?. What should I expect with this issue?.

Sara Malone

Completely normal. They grow in 'groves'. If you don't like the look, you can prune them off, but it will be a lifetime project!

Linda Rockers

Trying to figure out what to plant under my Sequoia. It’s about 75 years old and big. It drops a lot of needles. I’d like to plant something under the tree that would cover the needles but like the soil. Any suggestions? Thank You!

Sara Malone

The problem with planting under a Sequoia is that they have incredibly agressive, thirsty roots that grab any and all water that is available. The rule is, 'don't get in a battle for water with a Sequoia sempervirens; it will win.' Pretty much the only thing that you can put under a Sequoia is a patio. Once I thought that I would outsmart them, and I placed large terra cotta pots under a grove and before I knew it, the roots of the Sequoia had made their way up into the pots...