Sequoias and Redwoods Are Not the Same Trees

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One of the most frequent questions I am asked in the line of duty (meaning when I collect money in the parking lot) is What is the difference between a sequoia and a redwood? Related confusion is exhibited when visitors refer to the trees they are about to see/have just seen as “redwoods” or when people tell me they saw sequoias north of San Francisco. I feel it is my duty to correct such mistakes. The company I work for may see me as nothing more than a money collector, but I see myself as an educator.

When I visited Sequoia National Park, I bought an oversize postcard explaining the differences between giant sequoias trees and coast redwoods. The postcard’s copyright belongs to the Sequoia Natural History Association and has a date of 2009. I bought the postcard so I’d have something I could show folks in order to alleviate their sequoia/redwood confusion. As a service to my readers, I will summarize the information on the card (as well as information on a handout I was given by a Forest Service employee) and alleviate any confusion you may have regarding these trees.

The trees are in the same family, but we know they are not the same because they have different scientific names. The scientific name of the giant sequoia is sequoiadendron giganteum The scientific name of the coast redwood is sequoia sempervirens.

The easiest way to tall a giant sequoia from a coast redwood is location. While both grow naturally in California, coast redwoods live on the northern coast of California, and giants sequoias live on the Western slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains between 5,000 and 7,000 feet elevation.

(Instead of referring to where trees live, in the case of the giant sequoias, we must talk about where the trees occur naturally and/or reproduce. While reading the book Giant Sequoias by  R.J. Hartesveldt; H.T. Harvey; H.S. Shellhammer; and R.E. Stecker, I learned giant sequoias live throughout Europe, although the trees currently living there did not occur naturally—people planted the seeds the trees grew from—and the trees are not reproducing naturally there. I am unsure if coast redwoods grow—naturally or otherwise—anywhere other than the coast of California.)

Another difference between coast redwoods and giant sequoias is size. Coast redwoods are taller than giant sequoias. In fact, coast redwoods are the tallest trees in the world, reaching heights up to 367.8 feet. The tallest giant sequoia is “only” 311 feet. Giant sequoias, however, are wider, with widths up to 40 feet, compared to the widths of coast redwoods of up to 22 feet. Giant sequoias are the largest living trees; they contain a greater volume of wood than any other trees, due to their height and great width. Giant sequoias weigh up to 2.7 million pounds, while coast redwoods weigh up to 1.6 million pounds. Part of the reason for the weight and volume difference is the thickness of the bark of the trees. The bark of giant sequoias can be up to 31 inches thick, while the bark of coast redwoods can be up to 12 inches thick.

Both giant sequoias and coast redwoods reproduce by seeds, although coast redwoods can also reproduce by sprout. (Giant sequoias don’t reproduce by sprout.) Coast redwoods have seeds that look like tomato seeds, while giant sequoia seeds look like oat flakes. Both trees produce cones in which their seeds grow, but the cones are of different sizes. The cones of giant sequoia trees are about the size of a chicken’s egg, while the cones of coast redwoods are the size of an olive.

Giant sequoias live longer than redwoods. The oldest giant sequoia is thought to be 3,200 years old, while the oldest coast redwood is believed to be 2,000 years old.

Finally, all giant sequoias are protected by law from being harvested, while coast redwoods can legally be harvested and used for lumber.

So now you know the difference(s) between coast redwoods and giant sequoias. My work today is done.

I took this photo of a giant sequoia. Unfortunately, when I visited the coast redwoods, I didn't have a camera, so I don't have a photo of one of those magnificent trees to share.

I took this photo of a giant sequoia. Unfortunately, when I visited the coast redwoods, I didn’t have a camera, so I don’t have a photo of one of those magnificent trees to share.

About Blaize Sun

My name is Blaize Sun. Maybe that's the name my family gave me; maybe it's not. In any case, that's the name I'm using here and now. I've been a rubber tramp for nearly a decade.I like to see places I've never seen before, and I like to visit the places I love again and again. For most of my years on the road, my primary residence was my van. For almost half of the time I was a van dweller, I was going it alone. Now my (male) partner and I (a woman) have a travel trailer we can pull with our truck. We have a little piece of property, and when we're not traveling, we park our little camper there. I was a work camper in a remote National Forest recreation area on a mountain for four seasons. I was a camp host and parking lot attendant for two seasons and wrote a book about my experiences called Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. During the last two seasons as a work camper on that mountain, I was a clerk in a campground store. I'm also a house and pet sitter, and I pick up odd jobs when I can. I'm primarily a writer, but I also create beautiful little collages; hand make hemp jewelry and warm, colorful winter hats; and use my creative and artistic skills to decorate my life and brighten the lives of others. My goal (for my writing and my life) is to be real. I don't like fake, and I don't want to share fake. I want to share my authentic thoughts and feelings. I want to give others space and permission to share their authentic selves. Sometimes I think the best way to support others is to leave them alone and allow them to be. I am more than just a rubber tramp artist. I'm fat. I'm funny. I'm flawed. I try to be kind. I'm often grouchy. I am awed by the stars in the dark desert night. I hope my writing moves people. If my writing makes someone laugh or cry or feel angry or happy or troubled or comforted, I have done my job. If my writing makes someone think and question and try a little harder, I've done my job. If my writing opens a door for someone, changes a life, I have done my job well. I hope you enjoy my blog posts, my word and pictures, the work I've done to express myself in a way others will understand. I hope you appreciate the time and energy I put into each post. I hope you will click the like button each time you like what you have read. I hope you will share posts with the people in your life. I hope you'll leave a comment and share your authentic self with me and this blog's other readers. Thank you for reading.  A writer without readers is very sad indeed.

5 Responses »

  1. Thank you ! I am so tired of trying to tell people they are different trees
    I have had the opportunities to see both of these amazing trees

  2. Greetings,

    Seeing you mentioned the educational angle, you may enjoy some updates to incorporate. Presently, Coast Redwood species is wider than Giant Sequoia. The 40 ft. width you mentioned was actually wide ground level spread, rather than dbh / diameter breast high, where professionals most often compare trees.

    But either way, 2013 to 2015, a bunch of new coast redwoods were discovered, and the widest among them exceed every known giant sequoia, at dbh and even at ground level diameter and circumference.

    Guess I will know if the link works after I tap the comment button, but this page has latest updates >

    http://www.mdvaden.com/redwood_year_discovery.shtml

    Cheers,
    MDV

    • Thank you for this updated information. I wonder how long it will take the Forest Service to update their informational flyers. In any case, both coastal redwoods and giant sequoias are tall, massive, HUGE trees, awe-inspiring, wonderful.

  3. Pingback: The Trail Is Closed | Rubber Tramp Artist

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