Perhaps the most beautiful and fascinating of all redwood mutations is the Chimera Albino Redwood. What’s unique about chimeras is they consist of organized cells that have two visually distinguishable sets of DNA (genotypes) within the same plant. Genetically speaking, chimeras are essentially two trees in one. Caused by an extremely rare mutation within the meristematic cells of redwood buds, chimeras exhibit sectors of green & white foliage together in array of very distinct patterns. Unlike their Non Chimeric Variegated Albino Redwood cousins, Chimeras display clear lines of delineation between the boarders of each genotype. What’s interesting about chimeras that sets them apart from other mutations is they come in three different phenotypic subsets or color patterns know as: sectorial, mericlinal, & periclinal.
Not only noted for their beauty, Chimeras have been responsible for giving researchers the latest discoveries in redwood morphology. Because of the organized color differences between the cells of chimeric redwoods, scientists have been able to visually understand how redwood meristematic cells layers grow and interact with each other which previously hasn’t been understood within normal green redwoods. This research has allowed for a better interpretation of how redwoods develop and why we see such genetic variation within this species.
Albino redwoods come in 7 different phenotypes or color variations:
- White or off white
- Bright yellow
- Cellular virescent green
- Pale green
- Non chimeric variegation
- Chimeric variegation
There are two distinct locations on a redwood tree where they can be found:
- Aeriel: Growing in the form of an independent branch or leader
- Basal: Water sprouts originating from adventitious buds off the tree's burl
Worth mentioning, there are also other non-albino redwood mutations that can be seen in the forest:
- Curly leaf
Note: Be sure to click on the names below of each albino redwood type for expanded description and photos.
This site is dedicated to the study & research of rare Albino Redwood mutations
The Coast Redwood known for being the tallest and one of the largest trees on earth holds a secret deep within the forest that few have ever seen. Like a white ghost hiding in the shadows, a tree known as an albino redwood stands brilliantly in contrast with the green surroundings of the forest. Known as a chlorophyll deficient or delayed mutation, these trees lack green pigment within their needles. Sometimes appearing as a separate or independent trees, albino redwoods must derive all their nutrients from nearby green redwoods in order to survive.
What causes these mutations and why is it important to study:
While there still isn't a definitive cause to what initiates theses mutations, research has found that there is a high proportion of albino redwoods in areas of high UV light exposure and increased human activity. Ongoing research hopes to shed light on these questions which may give us a better understanding of the overall health of the redwood forest and trees growing in our urban environments.
Why study these trees? Albino redwoods give us a rare glimpse to visually understand inter-workings of redwood buds & meristems. These trees have also presented clues to understanding redwood morphology by the unique mutations they make. By learning the distribution of these rare trees we can better interpret where they're most likely to occur. On this site you will see the many different varieties of albino redwoods and the forms they come in. Ranging from the Mottled albino redwood where only 2 are known to exist in the the world to the more common white albino redwood where a modest 200 have been documented.
How many albino redwoods are there?
Currently researchers have documented over 500 albino redwood sites. There are approximately 400 albino redwoods in the natural range and 100 or so on planted trees outside their natural habitat. There's even been confirmed reports of albino redwoods growing as far away as Los Angeles, Portland OR., & Seattle WA.
Where can I see one?
Most albino redwood locations remain secret in order to protect these rare trees. Unfortunately, a few albino redwoods in recent years have been cut down by souvenir hunters & profiteers who think they can make money selling these unique trees. With that said, some of the best places to see albino redwoods is Muir Woods National Monument in the southern part of the range and Humboldt Redwoods State Park in the north. The albino redwoods in Muir Woods can be seen on main trail about a half mile north of the visitors center, while the ones in Humboldt Redwoods can be seen near Founders Grove. If you need specific directions, please ask a park docent for help.