These evergreen skyscrapers are giant redwood or sequoia trees (Sequoiadendron giganteum). Planted here at Powerscourt around 1870, these gigantic trees can grow to 80m and live for over 3,500 years in their native Northern California. So these trees are still youngsters!
Adapted for wildfire
A number of features of these trees highlight how they have become adapted to dealing with the periodic wildfires which scorch their native land.
Stand under the towering canopy and feel the redwood’s unusual soft, spongy bark. This protective bark, which can be over 30cm thick in mature trees, contains tannins which provide significant defence against wildfire.
You may be lucky enough to spot the speckled brown back of the treecreeper (Certhia familiaris), as it runs mouse-like up the trunk, searching for insects hiding in the bark. The enormous redwoods are prime real-estate for these small birds, as the spongy bark is perfect for excavating nesting sites.
At any one time, these conifers will have thousands of oval cones attached along their branches. Can you find one lying around the base of the tree?
This cone may stay closed for over 20 years, waiting for the ideal time to release its hundreds of tiny delicate seeds. The seeds are only able to grow well in full sunlight, free from competing vegetation. Thus the cones have adapted to use the occurrence of wildfire to their advantage. As the heat rises the cones will dry out, releasing the seeds onto newly cleared, mineral-rich soil, where they can have the best chance of survival.
Visit Powerscourt today to see these beautiful trees!