Of the three known redwoods: Giant Sequoia, Dawn Redwood, & Coast Redwood, the latter holds the distinction of being the tallest tree species in the world. It’s also one of the largest not far behind its cousin the Giant Sequoia. Despite the Coast Redwood's amazing size & height, these massive trees have a chink in their armor. They are the least drought & cold hearty of the three redwood types. People all over the world who've visited California's Redwood Empire have brought redwood seedlings home with high hopes they too can grow one of these majestic giants. Unfortunately, most people have been met with disappointment as Coast redwoods have difficulty growing in climates where temperatures fall below 15°F. In the United States, this means most areas away from the West Coast of America are not hospitable for growing these trees. Only areas of the central East Coast, rapping down into the Deep South have been found to exhibit climates suitable for growing Coast Redwoods. Experts could easily conclude that the cold and arid region of America's Great Basin Desert should easily rule out the possibility of growing these trees. All that seemed true until a lone redwood was found growing in Reno Nevada June of 2017. Planted mysteriously by an unknown individual around the year 2002, the tree has been growing almost unnoticed alongside a house not far from the glittering lights of downtown. Located on the University of Nevada Reno property, the tree can be seen off of Evans Street. This modest Coast Redwood which may seem unappealing to its tall brothers on the other side of the Sierra is defying the odds. The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map shows Reno in zone 7a which typically sees winter lows between 0°F to 5°F. With temperatures this range, the tree pictured right shouldn't be able to survive, but amazingly it does. After the discovery, local arborists affiliated with the University of Reno Nevada were quite astonished to learn about the tree. One of these Arborists named Rob maintains a tree species database for the Reno area said this was the only known Coast Redwood growing in the region. This may be the only Coast Redwood in the state of Nevada for that matter.
So how can a Coast Redwood survive such an inhospitable climate of the Big Basin Desert? The answer lies in the microclimates of Reno. Situated near the downtown area, the tree is receiving some much-needed help. First, the tree is situated within the 'heat bubble' of the downtown area which sees slightly higher winter low temperatures than the surrounding desert. Second, the tree is growing on a slight slope above the Reno Valley where cold air tends to pool on winter nights. Third, the tree is also on the wind-protected side of the house preventing cold dry winds from drying out the foliage. Fourth, the tree receives some indirect light which helps moderates winter temperatures and aids the tree's adaptation to the cold. Fifth and not least, the tree does receive supplemental irrigation giving it the edge it needs to survive.
As you can see, the leader of the tree has been burned back due to the extremely low temperatures the tree has experienced over the years. For more information on cold-tolerant Coast Redwoods, see the 2017 Tales of White Trees article within this website.
2018 Update: We received sad news in August that Nevada's lone cold-tolerant Coast Redwood was cut down to make way for a new UNR development. Efforts to have this tree relocated in a similar manner to the Cotati Tree were rejected by university staff as being too cost-prohibitive. Fortunately, before the tree was removed, cuttings were taken by local horticulturists to preserve the genetics of this unique little tree.