Ancient Redwoods Show Calif. Wildfires Who's Boss

Most giant trees in Big Basin Redwoods State Park, including 'Mother of the Forest,' survive blazes
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 25, 2020 7:43 AM CDT
'Mother of the Forest' Still Stands Tall After Brutal Blazes
An old-growth redwood tree named "Mother of the Forest" is still standing in Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Calif., on Monday.   (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

When a massive wildfire swept through California’s oldest state park last week, it was feared many trees in a grove of old-growth redwoods, some of them 2,000 years old and among the tallest living things on Earth, may finally have succumbed. But an AP reporter and photographer hiked the renowned Redwood Trail at Big Basin Redwoods State Park on Monday and confirmed most of the ancient redwoods had withstood the blaze. Among the survivors is one dubbed "Mother of the Forest." "That is such good news," says Laura McLendon, conservation director for the Sempervirens Fund, an environmental group dedicated to the protection of redwoods. "I can't tell you how much that gives me peace of mind." The historic headquarters at the park about 45 miles south of San Francisco is gone, as are many small buildings and campground infrastructure that went up in flames.

"But the forest is not gone,” McLendon says. "It will regrow. ... [The redwoods] have been through multiple fires, possibly worse than this." When forest fires, windstorms, and lightning hit redwood trees, those that don't topple can resprout. Mother of the Forest, for example, used to be 329 feet tall, the tallest tree in the park. After the top broke off in a storm, a new trunk sprouted where the old growth had been. Trees that fall feed the forest floor and become nurse trees from which new redwoods grow. Forest critters, from banana slugs to insects, thrive under logs. While there's a great deal of work to be done rebuilding campgrounds, clearing trails, and managing damaged madrones, oaks, and firs, Big Basin will recover, McLendon says. "The forest, in some ways, is resetting," she notes.

(More redwoods stories.)

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