Sequoia sempervirens


For redwood we also lack good figures for any considerable range of conditions and ages, for redwood growth which followed burns does not exist and there are no very old cuttings. Government studies on the northern California coast prove conclusively, however, that this is our most rapid growing native commercial tree. In thirty years, in fair soil, it will produce a tree of 16 inches diameter, 80 feet high, and some existing 45-year stands run 20 to 30 inches on the stump and about 100 feet high. Reckoning 14-inch trees as merchantable, to be used to 10 inches in the tops, a 25 to 30-year second growth after logging near Crescent City was found to have 2-1/2 M feet to the acre and the future increase should be very rapid. There is little question of the profit of growing redwood, provided the difficulties described elsewhere of getting a dense crop started are overcome.

Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens )

Although probably the most rapid-growing of all American commercial trees and also of high market standing, redwood has been little studied by foresters. The layman is still more confused by its many peculiarities. Growing to a size of 20 feet in diameter and 350 feet high, reaching an age of well over 1,000 years and seldom reproducing by means of seed, it is not surprising that it was long regarded as ill-adapted to second crop management. Although observing that suckers sprout from the stumps with great rapidity, the lumberman generally regarded these mushroom growths as abnormal and temporary, and believed his virgin timber to be the finally-vanishing remnant of a prehistoric species unsuited to present-day conditions.

It was next discovered that the suckering habit is no new one, indeed that the majority of the present stand, however old, began as sprouts from roots or stumps of its predecessors. This is evident from the circular arrangement of several trees around the spot where their parent stood. These old sprouts were of very slow growth, for they were shaded by a forest of extreme density. As seedlings they could have neither germinated nor grown, but as suckers they were kept alive by the parent until light supply became available through their increasing height or through thinning of the forest. Under such conditions centuries were required to produce large trees.

The owner of today, by cutting down the old stand, gives the suckers conditions hitherto unknown to the redwood. The vigor and susceptibility to the aid of light, which originally was necessary in the sprout growth to perpetuate the species at all, now respond to entire freedom and light in an astonishing manner. Even after severe slashing fires char the stumps, the latter throw out clusters of sprouts which grow several feet a year. Logging works 30 or 40 years old have come up to trees nearly 100 feet high. Naturally such timber has a heavy percentage of sapwood and is soft and brittle, but it is already suitable for piling, box lumber and like purposes and improves constantly.

Since reproduction by seed does not enter into the problem, financial possibilities depend almost wholly on the nature of the original stand. There are many types of redwood forest, pure and mixed, flat and slope. If the old trees are few to the acre, the sprout clusters will be so far apart that excess of side light will produce clumps of swell-butted, short limby trees, of little use for lumber; that is, unless there is also a seedling growth of fir or other species to fill the blanks and bring up the density. Where such a nurse growth is to be counted on, or where the redwood trees are small and close together, ideal conditions for a certain, rapid and well formed second crop exist.

The thinner the original redwood stand, the greater the effort necessary at the time of logging to obtain the required density. The leaving of seed trees of other species, with as many as possible small trees of both redwood and other species and the maximum protection of all from fire, should then be the means employed. On some tracts the proportion of redwood will not warrant this effort; on some it is not even required. The question of whether it pays to hold redwood land is therefore almost wholly local, but when conditions are favorable it can be answered affirmatively, because of the extremely rapid growth, with less doubt than of almost any other species.

There is some tendency to over-production of sprouts by redwood stumps. Removal of the excess with an ax, saving those closest to the ground and not over-thinning to the extent of reducing the density conducive to height growth and shedding of low branches, improves the chances of those remaining.