There are three "redwoods" - dawn redwood (Metasequoia), coastal redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) and giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum). Giant sequoia is distinct from the other two as its needles are short and pressed against the stem. In the wild they are found in a few small groves in the Sierra Nevada in California where they reach over 90m height and up to 17m in diameter (see Wikipedia article). They grow well in Ireland and there are already some dramatic trees that look as if they could reach 50 to 80m at maturity. The specimen in the Belfast Botanic Gardens was planted in the mid-1970s in the area just behind the Kelvin statue. It replaces an older tree dating from Victorian planting around the 1890s. This tree was damaged and was taken out about 1973 and the present replacement planted.
The pollen cones are produced in late autumn and the small female cones are fertilised in winter. The female cones expand in the first year remaining green, then ripen and turn brown in the second year. The trunk tapers to a wide base and the bark is distinctively thick and soft and in the wild affords considerable protection against fire damage.
|Giant redwood in Belfast Botanic Gardens - centre next to Dawn redwood in its autumn colouring||Giant redwood trunk (Castleward estate)|
|Young female cone||Female cone, first year stage|
|male (pollen) cones of giant sequoia||leaves of giant sequoia|
Photos taken in Belfast Botanic Gardens in 2009. Copyright: Friends of Belfast Botanic Gardens.
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