Coast Redwoods Thriving at Washington Tree Farm
Tree farmers from all across the Pacific Northwest (including Idaho!) flocked to a tree farm in Western Washington to attend the 2023 annual Washington Farm Forestry Association (WFFA) meeting and Tree Farm Tour. Despite not being foresters ourselves, PropagationNation was graciously represented amongst the ranks. Why? The destination of interest at the farm was a thriving stand of 33-year-old Redwoods glimmering like rubies in a sea of common quartz crystal.
While the exact location and name of the farm will be excluded from this article for privacy reasons, hopefully the following descriptions and photos can suffice to place the site in a personal mental map.
The first thing anyone notices when approaching an acre of 33-year-old coast redwoods is their size. These trees that have vacationed in the land of milk and honey since the Ice Age may have heard that Douglas fir trees grow like grass here in Western Washington, but the size of a 53-year-old Doug fir pales in comparison to their 33-year-old Redwood counterpart. They’re like that kid in middle school who surpasses their teacher’s height before the 8th grade. And that’s not an exaggeration: in 2008, the 18-year-old Redwoods were the same height as the stand of 38-year-old Douglas firs growing nearby. The Redwoods have continued to grow at the rate of 4 feet per year and are now 135 feet tall in only 33 years. This suggests that Redwoods can grow significantly faster than the species currently purported to dominate Western Washington. In other words: they are meant to be here. And they want to stay.
Their determination is represented by the high number of newly sprouted shoots at the farm emerging from the bases of larger redwood trees and stumps cut for forest thinning. One of the most unique features of Redwood development is their superhero quality of resprouting following stress, including after being felled or scarred by fire. This leads to forests resilient against the ever-increasing disturbances experienced in the Pacific Northwest. This was apparent even in the relatively young forest we saw during our tour – every patch of the ecosystem displayed evidence of this phenomenon. If you have not already checked out our list of reasons why Redwoods belong here in the PNW, you really should.
Perhaps the most notable aspect of the visit was the obvious awe and wonder that the conference attendees experienced as soon as they set foot in the space. Having built livelihoods around working in forests, those touring the tree farm were no strangers to trees. Even still, the quiet reverence that fell upon the tour group in the Redwood stand was undeniable. Maybe some of those folks will go on inspired to plant Redwood forests of their own.
Beyond the impact the tour had on others, it was clear that the owner of the farm and the original advocate for planting the trees was quite pleased with his Redwood stand. There was a lot of wondering going on at the conference about potential lumber sales for Redwoods as it is a mostly untapped market here up north. But when asked about his goals for his stand, the planter had a simple response:
“My only goal is to grow the tallest trees in the world.”
And standing there among the future giants, one could only believe him.