Redwoods are native
to the North coast of California and are indeed special trees. They exude a certain chemical which makes them disease and insect resistant. Thus they can live for several thousand years. Their thick bark makes them fire resistant, and when they’re cut down, they sprout vigorously from their stumps and regenerate themselves. They are drought resistant as well and, while they can survive the dry inland summers, they prefer being near the coast, but not exposed to too much wind or salt. They can handle frost as long as it is not deep frost. To the lumberman, their best quality is the rot resistance of the older trees - 60 years or older. This quality, along with their beautiful color and straight grain, makes redwoods worth twice as much per board foot as most other lumber trees. The fact that redwoods grow well only in a narrow band along the coast from San Francisco to Oregon makes them relatively scarce, which also adds to their value.
We know of a few old growth redwoods on our ranch that we’d love to show you. They were left uncut because of their deformity. The biggest is over 12 feet in diameter. The largest one ever cut in Mendocino County was 22 feet in diameter. A section of that tree is on display on Main Street in Fort Bragg, 12 miles south of the Inn at Newport Ranch.
The old growth redwood stumps on our land average about six feet in diameter, with a few that are ten feet or more, and an occasional twelve footer. It’s poignant to walk through our forest today and see these large stumps, relics of the original virgin forest.
The fact that redwoods sprout from their stumps is their salvation, as they don’t easily grow from seed in their natural environment. You hardly ever see redwood seedlings on the forest floor. We’re told that it takes fire for the seeds to germinate. The lumber industry grows redwoods seedlings in hot houses and we’ve bought and planted a few hundred of them, which are doing very well. We’ve never harvested any of our trees, except those severly damaged by bears ripping off the bark, but if we ever do, we’ll harvest them on a sustained yield basis.
When the old-timers clear cut, they sometimes let things dry out and then set fire to the woods to get rid of the undergrowth and branches. Although that technique made it easier to harvest the logs, the land looked like a moonscape when they were finished. Most of the old growth stumps in our forest have been charred by fire but, nevertheless, they sprouted and produced a new crop of trees which were then cut again and some were even cut a third time, but not clear-cut as they used to be.
In spite of all this cutting, which ended on our land around 1980, our forest is still beautiful and someday, with care, giant redwoods will be growing here again.