Sitka spruce hug the cliffs. Tanoak, madrone, red alder, big leaf maple, Douglas-fir and California bay trees contribute to the lush canopy. But the dominant species is the coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), the tallest tree on earth. The redwood grows best in flood plains, protected from the wind, nourished by winter rains and year-round fog. It can also thrive in well-watered upland sites.
The tallest known coast redwood is 379 feet high. The oldest has been around 2,520 years, having started its life 500 years before the Roman Empire began.
Del Norte’s parade of springtime flowers includes trillium and milkmaids, which start blooming in February, skunk cabbage in March, rhododendrons in May and early June, azaleas in May and June, and Columbia lilies in June and July.
In the fall, big leaf maples turn gold. Vine maples turn red. Red alders lose their leaves without changing color, altering the look of the forest by letting in more light.
Closest to the ocean, a plant community called coastal scrub includes cow parsnip, salal, wild cucumber, coltsfoot, yarrow, salmon berry and thimbleberry.
Scientists studying the effects of rising global temperatures have found that the size and longevity of redwoods helps them store more climate-altering carbon dioxide than other plants. Even old redwoods continue to grow, each year adding more carbon-filled wood than smaller, younger trees. After redwoods die, their rot-resistant wood holds onto that carbon for a long time.
Redwoods cannot solve our climate problems all by themselves. People can do their part by protecting redwoods and other forests.
For More Information
For more information about plants in Redwood National and State Parks, go to the National Park Service website.