California Giant Redwoods are Still Standing

These 2,000-year-old trees in Big Basin State Park survived the lightning fire.


(Felix Lipov /

The ancient coastal redwood trees (sequoias) in California’s Big Basin State Park stand over 379 feet (115.5 meters) tall and they have been there for almost 2,000 years making them amongst the oldest living trees on earth. These giants have stood watch since the times of the Roman empire and they are still standing.

Big Basin was established in 1902 and is located 45 miles (72 km) south of San Francisco. The park is the home of the largest continuous strand of these giant trees.

When the park succumbed to the flames of the CZU Lightning Complex that began on August 16,2020 during a lightning storm, it was feared that the giants were lost. But while the buildings and campground are gone, according to the Associated Press, most of the coastal redwood trees remain.

“That is such good news, I can’t tell you how much that gives me peace of mind,” Laura McLendon, conservation director for the Sempervirens Fund, an environmental group dedicated to the protection of redwoods and their habitats, told AP.

Redwood forests are actually meant to burn according to McLendon and many of the trees have fire scars on them from previous forest fires. That’s because redwoods have thick bark that can survive intense heat.

“None of this looks that bad to me,” Mark Finney, a research forester with the US Forest Service’s Missoula Fire Science Lab in Montana told Mercury News after he viewed photos of the burned park.

“There’s a lot of scorch in there, but most of these trees are fine. You can see brown foliage on these trees. It doesn’t mean the tree is dead at all. It means the foliage is dead, but the buds underneath the branches and main stem are still alive, and they will probably sprout right back. Most of these trees will do just fine.”

The trees that do fall actually feed the forest and become what is known as nurse logs that grow new trees and feed insects. The forests do come back and much quicker than people think. The redwood trees

 that burned after the 2008 lightning fires rebounded quickly.

“One year later, even large trees where all the foliage was scorched off were covered with a light green fuzz of new foliage,” said Ben Ramage, a former ecologist at UC Berkeley.

“The reason those trees are so old is because they are really resilient,” state parks district superintendent Chris Spohre told AP. This is really a case where nature wins.

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