Redwoods are insulated by bark up to one foot thick

By Rachel DeSantis
August 25, 2020 03:17 PM
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redwood trees
Redwood trees
| Credit: Randy Vazquez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News/Getty

As the CZU Lightning Complex fire began tearing through Northern California last week, many wondered how the centuries-old redwoods in Big Basin Redwoods State Park would fare.

The answer? Pretty well, according to experts who say the resilient trees are made to withstand such extreme weather.

While much of California’s oldest state park — including its headquarters and many small buildings — was destroyed, most of the towering trees along the famous Redwood Trail survived the blaze, the Associated Press reported.

“The forest is not gone. It will regrow. Every old growth redwood I’ve ever seen, in Big Basin and other parks, has fire scars on them,” Laura McLendon, conservation director for the Sempervirens Fund, a group dedicated to protecting redwoods, told the outlet. “They’ve been through multiple fires, possibly worse than this.”

The iconic redwoods, some of which stretch back nearly 2,000 years, are built to survive fires, and are insulated by bark up to one foot thick, according to NPR.

redwood trees
Redwood trees
| Credit: Randy Vazquez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News/Getty

And even if they do burn, they’ll likely resprout – whereas most other trees would die, redwoods have buds that lie dormant beneath their bark, which can then sprout after a fire, the outlet reported.

“The reason those trees are so old is because they are really resilient,” State Parks District Superintendent Chris Spohrer told the AP.

Mark Finney, a research forester with the U.S. Forest Service’s Missoula Fire Science Lab in Montana, looked through photos from Big Basin provided by The Mercury News, and told the outlet the damage didn’t look so bad.

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“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,” he said. “Most of these trees will do just fine. I know it sounds shocking. If this was a forest in the Sierra Nevada, most of them would be dead.”

The CZU Lightning Complex fire broke out on Aug. 16, and has burned through nearly 79,000 acres in Santa Cruz and San Mateo Counties, according to CalFire.

As of Tuesday, it remained just 17 percent contained, and had prompted evacuations for around 77,000 people.