Coast Redwoods Thriving at Washington Tree Farm

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.

1951 Ford truck against the backdrop of 1990-planted Redwoods

 

8 Comments

  1. Kathleen Mahan on September 27, 2023 at 3:37 pm

    I hope that some day I will be part of such a tour of coastal redwoods! It sounds like it is magnificent and I am sure that it feels the same way when you are there. One almost wants to worship these trees as the saviors of the planet!

  2. Joe Sandri on September 27, 2023 at 3:49 pm

    Congratulations!

    If you need Coast Redwood or Sequoia saplings or seedlings grown from old growth champion trees, it may make sense to connect with us at Archangel Ancient Tree Archive. http://www.AncientTreeArchive.org

  3. Lawrence M Timmons on September 27, 2023 at 4:19 pm

    Be careful with trees that grow too tall for the diameter here in the pacific NW. The structural strength may not be able to withstand the stress of an ice storm, which happens occasionally here. Suggest some thinning is in order to let the diameters grow proportion with the height. Even Douglas firs have a problem dealing with ice storms.

    • Kathleen Mahan on September 28, 2023 at 2:29 pm

      How far apart would you recommend planting coastal redwoods as saplings. When do you recommend thinning? Which is more efficient – planting further apart or thinning when they are too close, or is this a decision based on environmental conditions and individual tree growth?

  4. Maribago on September 27, 2023 at 5:38 pm

    Super post. Very happy to see how happy those giants are!

  5. Doug Stinson on September 27, 2023 at 5:51 pm

    I love the grove and I am quite proud of the man who started it, Dave Robbins

  6. Connie Barlow on September 28, 2023 at 8:35 am

    It is terrific that this citizen group published a blogpost, and thus important documentation, of the extraordinary success and growth rate of a mature redwood grove in the Pacific Northwest. Today I edited a forestry wikipedia page by referring to this post and quoting from it. I had coauthored a wikipedia page titled “Assisted migration of forests in North America,” with a Canadian in 2021. Your group’s documentation of a California tree species thriving so far north justified my creating a new subsection on that page, within a main section titled “Inadvertent assisted migration. ” Well done!

  7. Terry Lamers on November 30, 2023 at 10:32 am

    I have been planting Coast Redwoods for 35 years on our tree farm in Polk County, Oregon. I believe that planting them in most locations in urban areas is a big mistake because they get so large. In parks where the nearest building is at least 200′ away would be ok planting spots, but not in typical residential areas.
    What will save the redwoods (if they need “saving”) is their value as a commercial tree species. We are getting at least twice the growth rate in our redwoods (defined as board foot volume/acre/year) compared to douglas fir. Combine that with the fact that the lumber is worth multiples of douglas fir lumber value, and you have a compelling case for planting redwoods in commercial forests.
    I first started planting redwoods as an experiment, along with about 9 other species. I planted redwoods in our worst soils (heavy clay), best soils, on north slopes, south slopes, in freeze pockets, high elevation, low elevation, and absolutely everywhere. They have excelled everywhere. The experiment with redwoods is over! Now we are planting only redwoods for reforestation.

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