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Saturday, 25 July 2009

The largest living organism in the world

Redwood trees are known as the largest living organisms on earth, some of them reach heights of over 300 feet high (the size of a football field). As a matter of fact, people that have been to a Redwood forest say that it is an awesome sight and that it will remain in your memory for as long as you live. Just when you assume that you've seen the largest tree of the forest, an even bigger one will appear around the corner. Redwoods are also known for their prolonged existence, meaning that some of the trees are hundreds or even thousands of years old. These outstanding trees are found alongside the pacific coast of Northern California where the summer fog and mild winters contrast with harsher inland climates.

The contemporary Coast Redwood is "Sequoia sempervirens". The species name is Latin which means “always green.” Coast Redwoods belong to the Taxodiaceae Plant Family, which include two other surviving Redwood species: the Giant Sequoia - "Sequoiadendron giganteum" found in Sierra Nevada, Mountains of California, and the Dawn Redwood - "Metasequoia glyptostroboides" a tree species unique to China.
The roots of a Redwood are extremely shallow; they grow no deeper than 10 feet, however, they spread out from the tree in every direction as far as 150 feet. By the time a few hundred years go by, the roots are so intermingled with the roots of other trees, making it impossible for a tree to fall down. By "holding hands" underground, the roots form a network allowing the trees to withstand even great storms (nevertheless, Redwoods are more defenseless to wind than fire, fierce winter storms are capable of bringing down these giants). As the roots grow out, crown root sprouting takes place. Sprouts in fact come out of the roots, out of the ground, and actually grow into the trees. New trees are often produced from sprouts which form at the base of the trunk.
Redwoods produce very small cones relative to the size of the tree. A mature Redwood tree can produce up to 100.000 cones in a year and each of these cones produce about 100 very small seeds. However, few are fertile, and fewer are capable of producing viable seedlings. Those that do survive, on the other hand, are amongst the fastest growing trees in the world.
Some trees have burn and char scars, recalling a tough past. Some even have huge caverns carved out of their middles due to gutting fires, but this doesn't stop them from growing; they are always full of life, making the wounds of the past seem so irrelevant. Besides the fires, some of its other enemies are the vagaries of climate change, occasional harsh storms and unfortunately, on a more immediate scale, chain saws...

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