The arrival of the first redwood forest in Europe
We’re betting every Londoner has at some point stood in awe beneath the cross-section of the giant sequoia trunk at South Kensington’s Natural History Museum.
Unless you’ve made a special trip to California to see them, that’s about as near as you can usually hope to get to these venerable trees.
But now the giant sequoia’s taller relative has come very much closer to home with the planting of the first redwood forest in Europe at the Eden Project in Cornwall.
Planted in March 2016, the Eden Project’s giant redwood saplings don’t yet live up to their name. But with the right care and attention they’ll eventually reach a mature height of 115 metres, and could enjoy a lifespan of up to 4,000 years.
The 40 tiny trees were planted by the Eden Project’s apprentice gardeners and local schoolchildren in a special event.
Aren’t giant redwoods and giant sequoias the same thing?
You could be forgiven for thinking they’re one and the same, because the two species look similar and are often mixed up. But they’re really quite different.
While the giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) is the broader of the two, the giant redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) is the taller.
They rely on different habitats, too: the giant sequoia only reproduces from seed, and needs the dry heat of the Sierra Nevada Mountains for its cones to release their seeds. The giant redwood, however, does best in a moist environment.
Why plant redwoods in Cornwall?
Habitat is the reason the Eden Project has been chosen as the redwoods’ new home. The Cornish climate is broadly similar to the chilly, damp conditions of the Northern California coast, the giant redwood’s native range.
There, a blanket of marine fog keeps the soil damp and helps the trees regulate their water balance. Unfortunately, this habitat is under threat from climate change and forest fires, and with it, the future of these breathtaking trees.
Where do the Eden Project’s redwoods come from?
The Cornish redwood conservation project is a joint venture with the Michigan-based Archangel Ancient Tree Archive (AATA), an organisation dedicated to preserving the diversity of the world’s old-growth trees.
The Eden Project’s saplings are clones of cuttings taken from living trees, and from the numerous shoots which tend to grow out of old stumps.
One of these is the so-called Fieldgate Stump, the remains of a huge tree reputedly felled in 1890 by William Waldorf Astor. A slice of the enormous trunk can be seen in the garden of Lord Astor’s former home, Cliveden, now a National Trust property.
Our gift to posterity
We’re delighted that Britain’s damp, foggy climate is serving as a refuge for the tallest living things on earth.
We might not be around for long enough to see the Eden Project’s redwood forest reach full maturity, but we love to think that these towering giants will be enjoyed by many generations to come. In many ways, that’s the main reason to plant and care for trees; they’re our gift to posterity.
You might want to think twice about establishing a forest of giant redwoods in your garden, but our expert tree surgeons are always happy to offer advice on choosing and caring for the species best suited to your land.