We grow many things in Los Angeles; desert agaves, tropical kiwis, tomatoes in November, carrots in January. We like to think we can grow anything, climate be damned.
So we plant the treasures of our state, California Redwoods (Sequoia Sempervirens). 240 million years ago redwoods lived through much of the Northern Hemisphere. Today, they inhabit coastal areas from Northern California to Southern Oregon and live no more than 50 miles inland. They dominate dense groves where they collectively gather the thick fog of their native range on their leaves. Some of this water is taken in by the leaves and some condenses and “rains” on the forest floor. This is one of the secrets to their success. The redwoods have shallow roots and require a large amount of water that is not provided by natural rainfall alone.
The redwoods dotting L.A.’s sun-soaked suburban grass lawns are miserable.
Recently, I came across an ambitious solution to the L.A. no-fog problem – an irrigation system connected to a pump at the base of each redwood. The pump sends water up the tree where mist emitters attempt to mimic the fog of coastal Northern California.
When we plant a tree we plant it for our children. Redwoods live up to 2,000 years, so we plant them for many children to come. In 1,000 years will people still be pumping water up these redwoods? The tallest redwood in the world is 379 feet tall. Are we willing to upgrade the pumps and extend the irrigation system that high? Would doing these things even make a difference to these struggling trees?
Since logging began in the 1850’s, 95 percent of the old growth redwoods have been cut down. If we want redwoods, let’s focus on preserving those that grow naturally. Let’s combat climate change, which poses a huge threat to redwoods. Let’s advocate for protecting redwood forest and their surrounding lands and support organizations like Save the Redwood League.
And let’s plant some pomegranate trees. They love L.A.
Rick Perillo is an avid gardener who is continually exploring sustainable farming techniques. He has taught edible gardening for over ten years at schools, non-profits, Pierce College and currently at MUSE School. Rick has been climbing trees since he could walk but has not yet climbed a redwood. You can learn more about his work at his website, The Carrot Revolution.