Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 243 Sequoia sempervirens

Common Names: redwood, coast redwood, California redwood Family: Taxodiaceae (bald-cypress Family)

redwood trees
This grove of redwoods is at home in a park in Seattle, Washington.


The California redwood is the tallest tree species in the world. In the best groves, they get over 300 ft (91.4 m) tall, with trunk diameters of 20 ft (6.1 m) or more. Many are more than 2000 years old. The largest trees have straight, slightly tapered trunks that are heavily buttressed at the base. The trunk may rise for more than 100 ft (30.5 m) before the first horizontal, slightly drooping, branches mark the bottom of a rounded crown. A grove of mature California redwoods is truly awesome. Younger trees are narrowly pyramidal and have branches all along the trunk. The bark is reddish-brown, thick and soft, with longitudinal fissures. Redwoods have two kinds of leaves: those on tip and flowering shoots are scale-like and overlapping, about 0.5 in (1.3 cm) long; those on other branches are linear, about 1 in (2.5 cm) long, slightly curved and standing out in two ranks on opposite sides of the twigs. The purplish-brown, egg-shaped cones are about an inch long and mature in one season, yet persist on the tree after the seeds are released. Redwood is one of very few conifers that will sprout from its roots and from cut stumps. Redwoods in cultivation outside their natural range rarely exceed 60 ft (18.3 m) in height.

Selections include 'Prostrata', a dwarf form that stays small with pruning; 'Adpressa' with broad, scale-like leaves that lie flat on the stem and are creamy white when young; 'Pendula' with drooping branches; 'Simpson's Silver' with silvery blue leaves; and 'Filoli' with very blue foliage.

The tallest California redwood still standing is 359 ft (109.4 m) high and grows in Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Larger ones have been harvested.

redwood foliage
Redwood trees produce two kinds of foliage, one that resembles that of its relative the baldcypress (Taxodium distichum) tree and another on the tips and flowering shoots are scalelike and overlapping.


California redwood, Sequoia sempervirens, grows in isolated stands from sea level to about 3000' above sea level in a narrow, 5-35 miles (8 km) wide, "fog belt" along the Pacific coast from extreme SW Oregon to Monterey County, California, a distance of only 450 miles (724 km). This area is characterized by frequent and very dense fog, and precipitation ranging up to 120 in (305 cm) per year. Some of the most spectacular groves are in northern California's Redwood National Forest.


Redwood does best in mild, humid climates. It barely survives in dry or warm regions. They do well in cultivation in England. Redwoods grow quickly and reach maturity in 400-500 years. Light: Full sun to dappled shade. Moisture: Redwood needs moist, well drained soil and regular watering. They do best in foggy areas. Hardiness: USDA Zones 7 - 9. Propagation: Seeds germinate easily without pre-treatment. Heeled cuttings from young trees are easy to root.


Redwood grows very quickly, 3-5 ft (0.9-1.5 m) per year in cool, humid climates and is tolerant of air pollution and strong winds. In the right climate and with enough space, redwood is an excellent choice where a tall, majestic specimen tree is needed quickly.

redwood tree
A redwood growing in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.


Sequoia is a monotypic genus in the baldcypress or Taxodium family, an ancient group of conifers that once shared the landscape with dinosaurs. Today the remaining 18 species (in 10 genera) are confined to North America, eastern Asia and Tasmania (!), and are relics of a former world-wide distribution.

The genus is named in honor of Sequoiah (1770-1843), the son of a British merchant and a Cherokee woman, who became a Cherokee chief and created an alphabet for his people's language. Sempervirens is from the Latin for "always alive" (because it is evergreen).

The Save the Redwood League is a non-profit organization dedicated to saving redwood forests by purchasing them and donating them to state and national parks. You can learn more about the California redwood, and the efforts to save at least some of the remaining groves, from their home page: http://www.savetheredwoods.org

Steve Christman 2/23/00

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Sequoia species profiled on Floridata:

Sequoia sempervirens

( redwood, coast redwood, California redwood )

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