Where the Giant Redwoods Roam

    A healthy Redwood forest

    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.

    A Redwood water pump

    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.  




    1. I grew up in northern CA and redwoods are dear to my heart. As a climbing tree, they aren’t the best, but me and my pals spent a fair amount of time up in one, pretending it was the mast of a clipper ship, for which it was perfectly suited. My hometown, Palo Alto, is named for a tree that Spanish explorers camped under centuries ago (“tall stick”). Years ago, the tree that was made a monument to El Palo Alto started to sicken and die, and so a pipe was run all the way to the top to release water from above, much like the pumps you’re describing. I have no idea if it worked or if the tree is still there, having moved away from there long ago, but I always thought it was a nice symbol for our community.

      I wonder why people are trying to grow redwoods in a place as arid as LA? They are beautiful trees, and fire-resistent too, but I agree, pomegranates would be much happier (and I can’t grow them here in the Pacific Northwest)!

    2. I live in Humboldt County with lots of beautiful redwood groves. The city of Eureka has a park with redwoods and so does the City of Arcata with a forest of redwoods. The Redwood National Park is 30 miles north and along with the state parks is a wonderland. Right now Humboldt County is probably better known for marijuana. I grew up in Los Angeles and wonder why anyone would try to grow a redwood tree there. Just my two cents. Or common sense. or nonsense. Merry Christmas to all.

      • Thank you for your comment John, you live in a beautiful corner of the world. In college, I visited a friend at the University there and encountered the Redwoods for the first time. As much as I love them, I don’t need on in my Los Angeles backyard.


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