Bolander on the Redwood Tree – 1866

Bolander warns California of the danger of logging the Redwoods

Daily Alta California, Volume 18, Number 5954, 29 June 1866

Front page 2nd column half way down

By Professor Henry N. Bolander

The Redwood Forest

The following extract is from a paper on the redwood tree, submitted by Prof. Bolander, of the State Geological survey, to the California Academy of Natural Sciences, have never been placed before the general reader, and deserve publication in the daily press:

“This mighty tree belongs exclusively to the foggy regions of the Coast Range and the underlying metamorphic sandstone, for wherever either of these conditions is wanting, this tree does not exist.

From the northern boundary line of the State down to the head of Tomales Bay it forms a continual forest, increasing in width northward. At Tomales Bay the chain is interrupted by a small bed of lime rock. The interruption extending from the lower foot-hills of Tamalpais down to Belmont, is undoubtedly owed to the lowness of the hills. A connecting link is found, however, on the Oakland hills. That grove of redwoods, now almost entirely destroyed, affords the strongest evidence of the dependency of that species on the prevalence of heavy mists. From Belmont to a few miles below .Santa Cruz is another narrow continuous chain, occupying; mainly the lee-sides of the most western ranges and the deeper gulches eastward. From near the mouth of Salinas River to the head of Carmelo Valley, another long interruption is caused by a bituminous slate. The absence of redwood in this long interval can hardly be ascribed to any other cause, for it is known that Monterey and the adjacent regions are subject to heavier fogs than Santa Cruz. Pinus insignis and Cupressus macrocarpa occupy here those portions naturally belonging to the redwood and Thuja Douglasii. Farther south, from the head of Carmelo Valley to San Luis Obispo, the most southern limit, redwood once but sparingly, forming nowhere extensive groves.

Its roots are imperishable, and as soon as the tree is cut they sprout and cover the soi1 rapidly to the exclusion of every other species— none being of so rapid growth. The indestructibility of the roots prevens the clearing of such land; even large trunks cut down cover themselves, within two or three years so completely with sprouts that they are hardly seen.

The entire after growth found on the Oakland hills, is owing to the indestructibility of its roots and stumps. The tenacity of life in this species, which is rather of rare occurrence in coniferous trees, shows itself also in the resistance it offers to fire, so frequent in those woods. Trees that have been bereft completely of their branches by fire covered themselves in a few years entirely with young sprouts, giving the trunks the appearance of a pillar, or remind one of those old trunks covered with Rhus toxicodendron in the East. Fire is destructive to the young trees only; after they have obtained a thickness of two or three feet they arc not liable to perish.

“Another great beneficial feature in this species is the power it possesses in condensing fogs and mists. A heavy fog is always turned into a rain, wetting the soil and supplying springs with water during the dry season.  Springs in and near the redwoods are never in want of a good supply of water, and crops on the Coast Ranges are not liable to fail. The year of 1864 has proved my assertion beyond doubt: this fact is generally known— a great deal of land has been taken up since. It is my firm conviction that if the redwoods are destroyed — and they necessarily will be if not protected by a wise action of our Government—California will become a desert, in the true sense of the word. In their safety depends the future welfare of the State: they are our safeguard. It remains to be seen whether we shall be benefited or not by the horrible experience such countries as Asia Minor, Greece, Spain and France have made, by having barbarously destroyed their woods and forests. But with us here it is even of a more serious nature: wise governments would be able to replace them in those countries, but no power on earth can restore the woods of California when once completely destroyed!”

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