The genus Sequoia is part of the CUPRESSACEAE family and contains only one living species, Sequoia sempervirens or Coast redwood. Coast redwood is an evergreen conifer that is found only in a narrow coastal band about 720 km (430 miles) long and eight to 60 km (five to 35 miles) wide from southern Oregon to the south of Monterey County, California.
A visit to an old growth redwood forest is unforgettable. The canopy is high, very high above, supported by massive columns and creating a vast open space below. In the presence of these silent giants, a person can feel quite insignificant.
Coast redwoods may live for up to 2,200 years and are the tallest trees in the world, reaching heights of up to 115 m (379 ft) with diameters at the base of 7 m (23 ft).
In 1850, 'old growth' redwood forest covered more than 810,000 ha (two million acres) of the California coast. After many years of clearfelling redwood forests, Californians realised that these magnificent forests were under threat and the result is complex legislation restricting forest harvest. Most of the remaining old growth redwood forests have been put into parks where they will be protected forever, a factor that has a significant influence on the premium price redwood commands on the local lumber markets.
Second Growth Redwood
Coast Redwood has a remarkable ability to coppice (regenerate from the stump). Once the old growth redwood forests were cleared, vigorous sprouts grew from the stumps and quickly cloaked the hillsides in green again. Although lumber from second growth forests is quite different to that from old growth forests, consumers demand the full range of grades of second growth redwood for a range of different uses. Virtually all of the redwood sold today is second or even third growth.
Redwood has been grown in New Zealand plantations for over 100 years, and Redwoods planted in New Zealand have higher growth rates than those in California. This is due mainly to even rainfall distribution through the year and in many cases, redwood stands on favourable sites are producing significantly more wood volume than radiata pine stands of the same age. The second version of the NZ redwood growth model developed in 2021 by Watt el al allows comparison of redwood and pine productivity.
This table (left) shows details of existing redwood stands throughout New Zealand.
The height and girth of trees in these stands have been measured and using the Redwood Growth Model,
the yields have been standardised, to 35 years of age.
- Table prepared by NZ Forestry Ltd.