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Muir Woods National Monument: The Coast Redwood Trees

Guest Blogger:  My Own Daughter!
I am blessed to have the two most wonderful daughters in the whole, wide world!  My oldest, Faith, just returned from a trip to San Francisco.  While there, Faith had the opportunity to see one of the things on MY bucket list .... the Coast Redwood trees.  She graciously agreed to write a blog post about her experience in the Muir Woods National Monument.  So without further ado, here's Faith!

Faith with Kate (dear friend and
awesome roommate!)

This past week, I went on a trip with my scholarship group to San Francisco.  We toured all over the city for four days and saw all the sights from the Golden Gate Bridge to Chinatown to Berkeley and more.  We had a blast everywhere we went, but I think my favorite part of the trip was visiting Muir Woods. 

As you can tell from the rest of my mom’s blog, we’re pretty big on nature in this family, so I was pretty psyched that this was included on our trip.

Friend Zack

A few facts about Muir Woods: Muir Woods is a remnant of the ancient coast redwood forests that covered much of the northern California coastal valleys before the 1800s.  Today, it is located twelve miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

150 million years ago, redwood-like trees covered much of the Northern Hemisphere. Due to climate change, the range of the redwood tree is much diminished.  Today, there are two species of redwood in California, the coast redwood and the giant sequoia.  The coast redwoods are found in Muir Woods and on a thin, discontinuous strip of land 500 miles long from southern Oregon to Big Sur.  The giant sequoias are found in small groves on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada.

The tallest redwood in Muir Woods is 252 feet tall, but the tallest in the world is 379.1 feet tall and is located in Redwood National Park.  This makes the redwood the tallest living thing in the whole world.  The tallest redwood is also up to 2,000 years old (though the average mature redwood is 600-800 years old)!  Its bark is a foot thick and its diameter is up to 22 feet.  The reason the redwood trees reach such incredible age and size is largely due to their incredible bark.  The bark grows from six to twelve inches thick and protects the tree from insects, fungi, and even fire.  Repeated hot fires can burn through the bark and cause hollows in the tree, but even then the redwood survives.

Fire actually plays a fairly important role in the life of the redwood.  Fire clears the forest floor of smaller plants and debris so that new redwood seeds can reach the ground and take root.  Furthermore the forest fires recycle nutrients and turns debris into ash.  In the 1800s, local towns and cities began suppressing these fires and upsetting the natural cycles of the forest.  The wildfires that would occur every 20-50 years were an integral part of the life cycle of the redwoods.  Nowadays, the National Park Service conducts prescribed burnings in order to re-establish fire’s natural role in the forest.

Redwoods are conifers and reproduce via cones.  If a cone finds purchase in warm, moist soil it may germinate and root.  A seedling may grow two or three inches in its first year of life.  However, in well-established forests such as Muir Woods, burl sprouting accounts for most reproduction of the redwoods.  A burl (pictured below)  is a mass of dormant buds that grows at the base, roots, or sides of the tree.  When the tree is injured or the burl is affected, the burl may sprout which gives the redwoods great competitive advantage over other trees that reproduce by seeds only. 

Another fun fact about redwoods is that they occasionally grow in family circles.  This process that takes hundreds of years.  When a redwood is fatally damaged, it will send up hundreds of burl sprouts.  Over time, only a handful of them will reach maturity.  These mature surviving trees often take root in a circle around the old, dying tree, forming “family circles.”

Muir Woods is a specialized forest environment that provides the habitat for a range of flora and fauna adapted to low light and moist conditions.  Such undergrowth includes redwood sorrel (pictured to the left), sword ferns, and mosses.  Bay laurels and big-leaf maples find purchase in rare patches of sunlight.  Douglas firs are interspersed among these other trees.  The animals of the forest include deer, spotted owls, bats, raccoons, warblers, kinglets, thrushes, garter snakes, rubber boas, and California giant salamanders.  The most common are Steller’s jays, Sonoma chipmucks, gray squirrels, and slimy bright banana slugs (in the rainy season).

Though we were there on a dry day and did not get to see any banana slugs, the woods were simply amazing.  We had spent a hot day in San Francisco the previous day and were shocked to find that the woods were downright cold and very wet.  We thoroughly enjoyed our two mile walk through the woods, and I highly recommend it to nature enthusiasts young and old alike!

For more information visit the Muir Woods website.


  1. Love your blog entry Faith! Before I read this, all I knew about redwoods were that they were tall, old, and they lived in California. You got such a huge amount of interesting information in one article. As for the banana slugs, if they look like they sound, it's probably good that you missed them!!

  2. Loved the pictures a lot!!!! What a great guest-blogger!!! I really want to take a trip to California (I'm not too far, I'm in Utah) and the redwoods are on the top of my list! Thanks!

  3. Thanks so much for the comments!

  4. Great blog post! I'm a big nature girl & I LOVE fact-filled nature posts! Your trip looks like it was fantastic, definitely on my bucket list!! Thanks for sharing!

    Science for Kids Blog

  5. What an amazing trip! Seeing those ginormous trees are on my bucket list, too. Thanks so much for sharing your experience, Faith. Definitely makes me want to move it up on my list. ;)

    And you are so sweet to guest post for your mom. done good! :)

  6. Those pictures are AMAZING! Thank you so much for sharing!

  7. We went on a trip there when I was younger. I was fascinated by the gigantic trees. Thanks for the story and the pics! It brought back great memories!