A Case for Bringing Back the Coast Redwood

June 23, 2023

By Michael Collins, Teravana

A great trait of coastal redwoods, the world’s tallest tree, is their towering immense beauty and the effect they have on passersby. To many, these trees are seen as surviving dinosaurs only found in national forests near the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington. It is lesser known that they are considered endangered, or that we can bring them back. 

As the Chinese proverb goes, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” This is true of all trees, especially today when billions more are being cut down annually than are being planted. 

But our largest and oldest trees can best speed up planetary healing because of their many traits, including their ability to grow faster than other trees. According to an article by the University of California, Davis, “Coast redwoods can grow three to ten feet per year. Redwoods are among the fastest-growing trees on earth. A redwood achieves most of its vertical growth within the first 100 years of its life.” This steady growth contributes to activating all their ecologic and planetary benefits quickly, an impact that will pay it forward for future generations. 

Increasingly, scientists are seeing our largest and oldest trees as an integral part of the climate change solution. In fact, the 1% largest trees hold 50% of the carbon held in forests. The more we restore old-growth forests, by planting roughly 10% champion trees like redwoods in each grove, the more carbon we can capture.

redwoods conservation

According to Gilhen Baker, et. al (2022), old-growth forests themselves are carbon sinks “that maintain billions if not many more tons of carbon dioxide in the phenolic acid of their soil.” This same above article cites Beresford-Kroeger (2013): If they were to be disturbed, be made to feel the brunt of the axe, this would release untold amounts of carbon into the increasingly carbon saturated atmosphere.” Redwoods’ extraordinary genetic makeup bolsters the forest with resiliency, and in its natural state, an old-growth forest is in itself a carbon sink. 

If we are trying to regenerate the forest, large old trees are essential for the success of wider, diverse forests and are critical for effective forest restoration. Redwoods have natural defenses that give them the resiliency to survive for thousands of years. Also, the few thriving old-growth forests have shown how cooler temperatures and the creation of microclimates benefit animals, plants, and humans.

Beyond their individual skillset, redwoods connect underground and the entire grove becomes even stronger. Redwoods’ roots are shallow, only going ten feet or so into the ground, but they can spread 60-80 feet wide, weaving and connecting with the roots of neighboring trees. This is one way they communicate.

We must not dismiss that these trees do give us hope, that when we are in their presence, the world seems more important and bigger than us. Old-growth forests have been around for millions of years and used to inhabit much of the Northern Hemisphere. Without a large presence of them, especially in their native western coastal habitat, we are missing out on all they can do for people and planet. These trees can bring the rain and prevent droughts from drying out our soil. Like many other trees, it is hard to deny the long list of benefits redwoods provide. The more we learn about them, the more it makes sense to find places to plant them. 

old growth forests redwoods


Gilhen-Baker, M., et al.  (2022). Old growth  forests and large old trees as critical organisms connecting ecosystems and human health. A review. Environmental Chemical Letters, 20(2): 1529-1538. 

Should I Grow a Redwood? University of California, Davis.      


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