The Oldest, Loneliest Tree

By Teo Spengler | April 10, 2022
Image by Scott_Walton
by Teo Spengler
April 10, 2022

Most of the trees in the yard in San Francisco are younger than my college-aged daughter. I planted them when I moved in some ten years ago. One tree though, a coast redwood, is infinitely older. It is the oldest tree, and also the loneliest tree, on the block.

Coast Redwoods

Majestic and mighty, coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) are the tallest of all trees on the planet. They are, in fact, the tallest living things in the world and incredibly massive. A grove of coast redwoods in Humboldt Redwoods State Park contains the largest concentration of living material ever measured on earth.

Coast redwoods live within a few miles of the Pacific. Once they grew in enormous groves up and down the length of the West Coast of the country, but they were cut down commercially and, today, only patches remain. The current range of the coast redwood is a strip about 450 miles long from the south of Oregon to Monterey County, south of San Francisco.  

The Oldest Trees

Redwoods are among the oldest trees on the planet, second only to bristlecone pines. They live a very long time, especially the giant sequoias, but coast redwoods as well. Botanists have found evidence that they appeared on the planet some 3,000 years ago.

The oldest coast redwood on earth has been given the name Helios. It is thought to be 2,068 years old. At 377 feet (115 m.) tall, it is the second tallest tree in the world. Coast redwoods have been found to live with connections to others in its grove. The trees’ roots intersect, and they communicate with one another, sending nutrients to trees in need.

My Coast Redwood

The coast redwood in my yard was never a member of a coast redwood community. It appears to have been planted in the sandy soil as a specimen tree some 30 to 50 years ago. 

It is the oldest tree in the yard, but having learned about coast redwood communities, I also find it is the loneliest tree. Its roots do not connect with or communicate with any other trees. I cannot bring in other redwoods, given the space, so my redwood will live its life out alone.  

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