Remember That ‘Floating’ Redwood Near Mount Tamalpais?

Redwoods are among the largest living things on this planet. But that’s not to say they can’t grow suspended over a creek.

As residents of Northern California, we’re fortunate enough to find ourselves in the thick of coastal redwoods groves — groupings of these ancient trees that, like their larger giant sequoia cousins, are among the largest living organisms found anywhere on this planet. These enormous flora home a wide array of fauna; everything from mustard-yellow banana slugs to salamanders the size of a human palm rely on redwoods for shelter, sustenance, and reproduction needs.

They also sequester a fuck-ton of carbon dioxide that would otherwise be swirling around the upper atmosphere, trapping solar heat and further warming our planet.

However, not all these redwoods — trees capable of living to well over 2,000 years old — root through the topsoil. One, for example, grew suspended over a creek in the North Bay last year, its budding body rooting on top of a fallen redwood.

“Ever seen a redwood growing in mid-air? That’s what’s happening here in Mt. Tam SP,” Save the Redwoods League, an SF-based nonprofit focusing on stewarding and restoring private land that’s now helped create over 60 redwood parks and preserves, tweeted in January of 2022. The peculiar phenomena that took shape somewhere in Mount Tamalpais State Park captivated us at the time — “[a] redwood fell over the stream, and a new tree has sprouted from a dormant bud. Redwoods are crazy resilient.”

Sometimes when a branch falls off a redwood tree — say because of a strong storm — the branch can come in contact with soil or another nutrient-dense organic medium, which can help it develop roots. Coupled with a healthy supply of water and ample exposure to sunlight, these separated branches have the capacity to grow into a complete growth; many redwood trees began as a stump sprout. 

Another natural phenomenon called inosculation occurs when trunks, branches, or roots of two trees grow together, the branches first growing separately in proximity to each other until they touch.

Regardless of what magic of biology is occurring here, it remains an incredible quirk of Mother Nature to behold. And it, too, gives us hope that this iconic NorCal tree species is capable of withstanding human-facilitated climate change in the years (decades and centuries, tbh) to come.

Let us know if you come across one/have any updates on this hella cool tree.

Feature image: Courtesy of Live and Let Hike

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