Sequoiadendron giganteum is the scientific name for the amazing Redwood species of tree in America now known as “Wellingtonia” in the UK.
Ancient giants like the Wellingtonia can grow to 100 metres, with some trees having been around for more than 2000 years, and this wonderful part of horticulture actually descended from the primordial Redwoods in the age of the dinosaurs!
Occurring naturally in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, Wellingtonias are coniferous trees and the world’s largest living organism; they have the greatest girth of around 80 feet and are quite marvelous to look at.
Wellingtonias were first planted here in the UK in 1869 in Hampshire on an estate belonging to the Iron Duke of Wellington and the tree was named in his honour soon after his death.
In 1968, the Redwood National Park was created in the US to protect and conserve this rare ecosystem from nearly a hundred years of clear-cut logging and providing longevity for glorious Redwoods and Wellingtonias alike.
The scientific name – Sequoia – means “living forever,” and these tall Redwoods are cone-bearing conifers that will never become extinct, thus, they keep their green needles all year round and some look like giant Christmas trees from a distance!
Anyone who walks into a Redwood forest is to enter one of nature’s cathedrals, where needles form a dense floor mat, limiting the understory plants and other tree growth and “hogging“ large areas, especially in a mature woodland.
Redwood tree trunks tower upward, reaching for the light far above the forest canopy and the shroud below. In such a spectacular environment, it is not hard to imagine the misty primeval forests of old – sheltering those dinosaurs – when these skyward trees were to seek the pure light of the Sun.
The needles of the Redwood also reflect this polarity of dark-green below and light-green above, thus, the lower needles are broad and long, breathing the moist cool air.
Just 15 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge in Muir Woods, San Francisco, is the Giant Redwood Grove, where Madeleine contemplates the past and considers suicide in Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Now a huge tourist attraction, there are sections of the tree trunk where dates from history are recorded and the life of the tree has passed through!
Dawn Redwoods are the species that were once thought to be extinct and were rediscovered in a remote Chinese valley in 1944. A popular ornamental, the tree is a fast-growing deciduous and the smallest of the three species of conifers known in the US as Redwoods – Dawn Redwoods grow to just 60 metres.
Redwood represents long-life and strength, and that is why the Wellingtonia Redwood Sequoia is symbolic of the Redwood State – California!