Characteristics of Old-Growth Redwoods 

Old-growth redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) trees provide important ecosystem structures and habitat features derived from old age and injuries. During their long lifespans (2000 years plus) they are subjected to infrequent but recurring natural disturbance events (i.e., fire, flood, windstorms, impact from falling trees or branches, etc.) that leave their mark on the tree. These identifying characteristics are listed below.

Identifying Characteristics of Old-growth Redwood Trees in the Santa Cruz Mountains
not all need be present

  • Outline of the live crown is irregular
  • Broken-off or spike top is present
  • Epicormic branching* or reiterations** are present
  • Large horizontal branches (>8") are present in the upper half of the tree
  • Cavities (goosepens), broken limbs or other "defect" present
  • Burn scars are visible on the trunk

It takes several hundred years for redwoods to acquire these old-growth characteristics. Although some characteristics may be created in second-growth trees by artificial manipulation of the tree, logging cannot accelerate the development of old-growth tree characteristics, as there is no way to make a tree grow old faster.

- Prepared by S. Singer, forest biologist, October 2009 

*  Multiple very small branches arising from the same point on the trunk.
** A tree-like branch growing from a dormant bud in the trunk or in a large limb.