In 1991, the Dyerville Giant fell to earth.

 

The tree was a 362-foot coast redwood in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, California. It was taller than the Statue of Liberty. 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 downed redwood the day after it fell. Stockton walked alongside the tree past its base. Its unburied roots stick up from the ground.

 

The toppled Dyerville Giant is one of the many amazing trees that Stockton showed me while walking around the park in 2010. Redwood trees 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, nicknamed the Hyperion Tree. The previous record-holder was the Stratosphere Tree, found in Redwoods State Park.



 

Rockefeller Forest

 

One of Humboldt Redwoods State Park's finest features is the Rockefeller Forest. It is a collection of redwoods that were never cut down by the area's logging companies. Stockton and I looked at the giant trees. Their twisted bark makes the redwoods look like giant strands of braided 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, thin redwood trees that cover the ground in patches. Older redwoods have what are called goose pens. These are large burnt-out 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 grow and 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's appropriate 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, a compound that keeps insects away. The trees also have low amounts of resin, which 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 shallow root system that grows less than 12 feet into the ground. 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 frequently live within redwood trunks that have been hollowed out by fire. The marbled murrelet, an endangered seabird, builds its nests on the wide branches of redwood trees.

 

Stockton says that when a redwood falls, the number of species taking up residence on the tree doubles. The fallen tree has more contact with the ground. This allows more animals and plants access to water that is stored within it. Downed redwoods frequently host a large number of insects. They provide dens for animals, including skunks and foxes.

 

The Rockefeller Loop Trail passes through a section of forest called Cathedral Grove. It featured the most stunning redwoods of the hike. Sunlight slipped down through the redwood branches as Stockton described what he finds most amazing about redwood forests. "It's so quiet," he said. "It's deafening."

 

Tall Trees
Coast redwoods are the tallest trees in the world.
antler
Noun

horn-like bony outgrowth on deer and related animals.

appropriate
Adjective

fitting.

bark
Noun

typically hard, outer covering of a tree.

bat
Noun

flying mammal.

canoe
noun, verb

small, open boat with pointed ends.

cavern
Noun

large cave.

coast redwood
Noun

tallest tree species on Earth.

dawn redwood
Noun

tree native to China.

deafening
Adjective

very loud.

dog hair
Noun

group of small, young redwood trees.

downed
Adjective

fallen or crashed.

Dyerville Giant
Noun

coast redwood tree in the U.S. state of California which fell in 1991.

earth
Noun

soil or dirt.

earthquake
Noun

the sudden shaking of Earth's crust caused by the release of energy along fault lines or from volcanic activity.

enthusiast
Noun

a fan or supporter.

filter
Verb

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.

Noun

clouds at ground level.

fox
Noun

type of mammal related to a dog with a thin muzzle and thick tail.

giant sequoia
Noun

largest species of tree on Earth.

goose pen
Noun

large hollow area in the base of a tree.

imposing
Adjective

large or very impressive.

impressive
Adjective

admirable or very memorable.

insect
Noun

type of animal that breathes air and has a body divided into three segments, with six legs and usually wings.

logging
Noun

industry engaged in cutting down trees and moving the wood to sawmills.

majestic
Adjective

very impressive and formal.

preserve
Verb

to maintain and keep safe from damage.

railroad tie
Noun

flat piece of wood that supports the metal track of a railroad.

resin
Noun

clear, sticky substance produced by some plants.

root
Noun

part of a plant that secures it in the soil, obtains water and nutrients, and often stores food made by leaves.

root system
Noun

all of a plant's roots.

seabird
Noun

bird native to an aquatic environment.

seismograph
Noun

instrument that detects and records vibrations caused by seismic shock waves.

shallow
Adjective

not deep.

skunk
Noun

mammal native to North America known for emitting a foul odor when attacked or threatened.

soil
Noun

top layer of the Earth's surface where plants can grow.

species
Noun

group of similar organisms that can reproduce with each other.

spider web
Noun

structure made from thin, sticky material spun by spiders and originating from their bodies.

Statue of Liberty
Noun

(1886) large sculpture in New York Harbor of a woman holding a torch, designed by French sculptor F.A. Bartholdi.

sweathouse
Noun

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.

tannin
Noun

chemical substance found in plants.

thrive
Verb

to develop and be successful.

Noun

movement of air (from a high pressure zone to a low pressure zone) caused by the uneven heating of the Earth by the sun.