California #1: Coast Redwood
The Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) is the only living species in the genus Sequoia in the Cypress family. It is an evergreen tree that lives for 1200 - 1800 years or more. This species now included the tallest trees in the world, reaching 379 feet. Before commercial logging began, this tree occurred naturally in 2,100,00 acres. An estimated 95% of the original forest has been cut down, due to its excellent uses for wood.
Coast redwoods occupy a narrow strip of land along the Pacific coast of North America. They tend to grow most in the mountains where rainfall from the ocean is greater. The tallest trees are found in valleys, near larger sources of water, under the fog layer; it would be difficult to get logging equipment into these valleys, making these trees more likely to live longer and be taller.
The Coast redwood is one of the most valuable pieces of timber in the lumber industry. Close to a million acres are in production for lumber in California. The wood does not decay much, and so was used heavily as railroad ties.
The Coast redwood has been naturalized to New Zealand. These trees have been growing there for 100 years, and often do better because of rainfall distribution throughout the year.
There are about 50 albino redwoods (mutants that are unable to manufacture chlorophyll). These trees exist as parasites, grafting their root systems with those of normal trees, an ability unique to redwoods.
The Coast Redwood is considered endangered on the IUCN Red List
For more information, visit the Institute for Redwood Ecology