discovered in 1854, growing in the Sierra Nevada, its only known remaining
habitat. It can live for more than three thousand years, and can reach a height
of over 100 metres. The trunk of these trees is very stout, usually forming a
single straight column, and with a marvellous tapering effect at the base. They
are covered with a beautiful soft, spongy bark - so soft in fact that one can
punch them quite hard and feel no pain.
This bark can be pretty thick, well over two feet thick in the more mature examples. This gives the older trees a certain amount of protection from insects, but the main benefit is its fire retarding properties. Whereas a forest fire is pretty much a disaster for the majority of trees, it seems that the giant redwood will not just shrug off such events, they actually need them in order to prosper. Moderate fires will clear the ground of debris and competing plant life, and the rising heat dries and opens the ripe cones, shortly afterwards releasing many thousands of seeds onto the well-prepared ground below. The crowns of the mature tree will, in a forest environment, be a long way from the ground, thus protecting the branches and foliage from destruction.