What Is the State Tree of California?

Marjorie McAtee

The state tree of California has been the California redwood since about 1937. There are two distinct species of this tree: the Sequoia gigantea and the Sequoia sempervirens, both of which are considered official state trees of California. Prior to the 19th century, California boasted more than two million acres (8,093.7 square kilometers) of old-growth redwood forest, but, due to the depredations of the logging industry, only four percent of these trees remain. The wood of the state tree remains valuable as lumber, due to its attractive hue, its resistance to fire and rot, and its workability. Today, California maintains about 899,000 acres (3,640 square kilometers) of redwood trees for commercial cultivation purposes, while most of the redwoods are classified as protected from industry.

A giant sequoia, one of California's state trees.
A giant sequoia, one of California's state trees.

The trees known as California redwood are some of the largest trees in the world. They are an evergreen species that can live more than 1,800 years. They may reach heights of up to 379 feet (115.5 meters) and are also generally very large in diameter. The typical fully-grown California redwood tree may be up to 26 feet (7.9 meters) in diameter at the base.

The coastal areas of Northern California are known for their redwoods.
The coastal areas of Northern California are known for their redwoods.

California redwood trees are generally most often found in the coastal regions of northern California. The state tree of California typically thrives at elevations ranging from 98 to 2,460 feet (30 to 750 meters). They usually need a cool, foggy, and rainy environment.

It is believed that the state tree of California is largely impervious to fire, possibly because its wood does not contain much sap. The trees are generally also covered in strong, thick bark that is believed capable of repelling both parasites and flames. Botanists believe that the California redwood's ability to resist these dangers account for the tree's typical centuries-long lifespan. Wildfires in this area are believed to kill off competing tree species, leaving more resources for the hardier redwoods.

The California State Senate named the redwood the official state tree of California in 1937. Since the state boasts two species of redwood tree, however, the law was modified in 1953, to make clear that both species were recognized as official state tree symbols. The gigantea species is usually commonly referred to as the giant Sequoia or Sierra redwood. The sempervirens species is the one most commonly referred to as the California redwood, Pacific redwood, or coast redwood.

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