In 1991, the Dyerville Giant fell to earth.
The tree was a 362-foot coast redwood. It was taller than the Statue of Liberty. It stood in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California. The crash was so loud that people in the closest towns thought it was the noise of a big train accident. The redwood's fall moved the earth. Vibrations registered on a nearby seismograph, a device scientists use to measure earthquakes.
Dave Stockton runs the Humboldt Redwoods Interpretive Association, a group of volunteers that run visitor centers and tours for the park. He remembered visiting the redwood the day after it fell. Stockton walked alongside the tree past its base. Its roots stick up from the ground.
Stockton showed me the tree while walking around the park in 2010. The toppled Dyerville Giant is just one of many amazing trees here. Redwoods are the tallest trees in the world. The park is home to some that rise more than 350 feet into the air.
The park's redwood trees are called coast redwoods. Their range stretches along the coast of California. The tallest coast redwood is in Redwood National Park. It is known as the Hyperion Tree.
One of Humboldt Redwoods State Park's finest features is the Rockefeller Forest. It is a collection of enormous redwoods. Stockton and I look at the trees. Their twisted bark makes the redwoods look like giant strands of rope.
The Rockefeller Forest is known as one of the finest groves of redwoods in the world. It has trees of all ages. There are "dog hairs," young redwoods that cover the ground in patches. Older redwoods have what are called goose pens. These are large caverns in the base of the trees. Oldest of all are the decaying stumps that stick out from the earth like giant teeth.
Stockton says redwood trees thrive within the park for several reasons. The trees like the area's mild temperatures and coastal fog. (The trees collect moisture from fog.)
Some of the redwood trees in the Rockefeller Forest are covered with spider webs. They almost look like beards. It is fitting since the redwoods here are very old. The average redwoods in Rockefeller Forest are estimated to be 600 to 800 years old. The oldest are up to 2,000 years old. Redwoods are able to reach such ages because they have high amounts of tannin. It is a natural compound that keeps insects away. The trees also have low amounts of resin. That helps them survive forest fires.
Threats to Redwoods
Stockton believes the greatest natural danger to redwood trees is high wind. The trees can grow hundreds of feet into the sky. However, they have a very shallow root system. In a windstorm, the redwoods can really sway.
Humans have long prized the wood of redwood trees. Native Americans built canoes and sweathouses out of the tree trunks. They used the roots to make baskets. In the 1850s, loggers harvested redwoods for buildings and railroad ties.
The forests are important to many plants and animals. Bats often live within hollowed-out redwood trunks. Birds build their nests on the trees' wide branches.
When a redwood falls, the number of animals living on it doubles. The fallen tree has more contact with the ground. This allows more animals and plants to reach the water stored within it. Downed redwoods are often home to large numbers of insects. The trees provide dens for skunks and foxes.
The trail passed through a section of forest called Cathedral Grove. It featured the largest redwoods of the hike. Sunlight slipped down through the branches as Stockton described what he finds most amazing about redwood forests. "It's so quiet," he said. "It's deafening."
horn-like bony outgrowth on deer and related animals.
typically hard, outer covering of a tree.
small, open boat with pointed ends.
tallest tree species on Earth.
tree native to China.
group of small, young redwood trees.
fallen or crashed.
coast redwood tree in the U.S. state of California which fell in 1991.
soil or dirt.
the sudden shaking of Earth's crust caused by the release of energy along fault lines or from volcanic activity.
a fan or supporter.
to remove particles from a substance by passing the substance through a screen or other material that catches larger particles and lets the rest of the substance pass through.
clouds at ground level.
type of mammal related to a dog with a thin muzzle and thick tail.
largest species of tree on Earth.
large hollow area in the base of a tree.
large or very impressive.
admirable or very memorable.
type of animal that breathes air and has a body divided into three segments, with six legs and usually wings.
industry engaged in cutting down trees and moving the wood to sawmills.
very impressive and formal.
to maintain and keep safe from damage.
flat piece of wood that supports the metal track of a railroad.
clear, sticky substance produced by some plants.
part of a plant that secures it in the soil, obtains water and nutrients, and often stores food made by leaves.
all of a plant's roots.
bird native to an aquatic environment.
instrument that detects and records vibrations caused by seismic shock waves.
mammal native to North America known for emitting a foul odor when attacked or threatened.
top layer of the Earth's surface where plants can grow.
group of similar organisms that can reproduce with each other.
structure made from thin, sticky material spun by spiders and originating from their bodies.
Statue of Liberty
(1886) large sculpture in New York Harbor of a woman holding a torch, designed by French sculptor F.A. Bartholdi.
structure used by some Native American cultures wherein water is poured over heated stones, causing people in the structure to sweat. Also called a sweat lodge.
chemical substance found in plants.
to develop and be successful.
movement of air (from a high pressure zone to a low pressure zone) caused by the uneven heating of the Earth by the sun.