This spring, Sonoma County education camp & retreat center Westminster Woods teamed up with Chimera Redwoods to form a new Albino Redwood learning experience. A young four foot tall albino redwood propagated by Tom Stapleton in 2013 was donated and planted out at the camp this spring. This was done to promote public awareness about these rare mutations and to teach about redwood genetic diversity. “Here we have a great opportunity to bring one of nature’s extraordinary phenomenons to kids & adults who’ve never had the chance to see these beautiful trees before” Stapleton said. His goal is to have people understand that there is more to the redwood story besides being famous for their height and size. “If people see how unique albino redwoods are, hopefully it will lead to a stronger interest in studying the reasons why they exist". Tom believes including the tree into Westminster's education program will lead to better conservation efforts in protecting albino redwoods in the forest and private setting. He also would like to inspire a new generation of kids about learning the mysteries about these white trees.
The young albino redwood rolled into the meadow awaiting planting at the new site.
A close up view of the albino foliage while the tree was still in the pot. This albino chimeric redwood was selected for its basal albino characteristics that resemble natural occurring albino redwoods found in the wild.
Westminster Woods Teacher Naturalist Ben Dambach (pictured left) helps prepare the planting site with a fellow coworker who wished to remain anonymous. Kids and insiders at the camp know Ben by his nickname 'T-Rex’
David Salomon who's also another camp Teacher Naturalist with Westminster Woods poses with Ben Dambach after the tree's successful planting. David also known by his camp name ‘Redwing’ hopes to turn this small meadow into a learning area where guests can be taught about the redwood forest ecosystem.
Pictured from left to Right: Ben Dambach, Tom Stapleton, & David Salomon salute a new beginning for the albino redwood. Looking ahead, Tom hopes to share his experiences with albino and chimeric redwoods through Westminster Woods education programs. Again thanks to the folks at Westminster Woods for adding this special tree to their camp & retreat educational experience. Information about the camp can seen here: Westminister Woods
Follow up report to: 2017 Tales of White Trees . Dennis from Erwitte Germany sent us fresh pictures of his seven-year-old sectorial albino chimera he named ‘Soluna’. The tree is approximately 4’ tall and to date is still the only chimeric albino Sequoia sempervirens known outside the United States. From these latest pictures, we can see that the tree’s foliage has also developed into a pale green albino chimera. This combination is exceptionally rare to see and similar to the virecent foliage seen on the Cotati Tree. Although the cause of the mutation is still undetermined, the cold weather of Germany appears to be playing a role. There have been reports from the Netherlands of Coast Redwoods exhibiting mottled appearing foliage. Thanks again Dennis for keeping us up to date with your chimeric redwood.
While hiking above the Sonoma Coast near the town of Jenner, a San Francisco photographer named Eric H. came across this basal albino redwood. The mutation appears to be relatively young exhibiting vigorous shoots. Located only a mile from the coast, Eric reported that the albino redwood was found near a group of dead redwoods. It possible that the trees died due to a slow-moving landslide. A field investigation will need to be done to see if stressors may have played a role in causing this mutation. Thanks Eric for sharing this discovery with us.
A few years back Barbara J. from Central Oregon reported that she had an aerial albino redwood growing in her backyard. No pictures were available at the time but we took Barbara for her word and marked it down for a future visit. The opportunity to see this albino came in the end of February and was definitely worth the visit. Growing in a fan like shape, this NCV albino redwood spreads throughout the lower crown of the main tree. The parent redwood was purchased as a sapling from Trees of Mystery in 1990 & planted out in Barbara's back yard the same year. Around the year 2000 the mutation started developing into the large aerial NCV albino that we see today. Barbara believes that pollution from a near by creek may be the reason why this mutation formed within her redwood. Thanks Barbara for the visit and providing the historical account on the tree.
Jared M. from Oakland gave us an update on the status of an albino redwood growing in the Oakland hills. The tree was originally reported to us by a lady named Wendy in the 2016 Tales of White Trees article. As we can see, the albinism has grown and expanded in the last four years. Follow up reports like this are important in tracking the growth patterns within these mutations. They may be able to tell us if their growth is continuous, cyclical or if they’re in decline. Tracking this data, we can compare information from the local weather history to see if there’s a correlation with growth and climate variations with albino redwoods. Thanks Jared for your photos and the update on the tree.
Sophia C. from the San Francisco Peninsula shares with us pictures of a small yet beautiful chimeric albino redwood she discovered on her neighbor’s tree. This little gem of a mutation appears to have only formed within the last few years. Due to its tiny size, albino redwoods this small can either continue to grow or disappear altogether. Because of Sophia’s sharp eyes, we’ll be able to track this little diamond in the rough years to come.
Tree enthusiasts Jeff. M revealed to us a truly one of a kind discovery. Located in the Southern Sierra, Jeff found this aerial albino on a Sierra Redwood, otherwise known more commonly as a Giant Sequoia. As of this writing, there are less than five known cases of albinism on Sequoias within their natural range. This extraordinary find is important in understanding if mutations on this tree species behave similarly to what’s seen on Coast Redwoods. Jeff has explained that this mutation formed on a tree which is currently experiencing changes to its soil environment. Cattle and the waste they’ve produced have been accumulating around the tree. This in turn can change the micronutrients available for the trees which they have depended on for thousands of years. Whether soil is the cause of this mutation remains to be seen, but what’s becoming clear is albinism is occurring on redwoods that have been affected by foreign introductions to their natural environment. Thanks again Jeff for this spectacular find!
Four years after chimeric albino redwood cones were discovered, Landscaper Lucas Dexter Vice President of Dexter Estate Landscapes came across another amazing redwood exhibiting the same variegated characteristics. Located in the in the heart of the wine growing region of Napa Valley, a planted Coast Redwood displays an aerial albino more stunning in appearance then the first discovery. With fanning branches in swirls of yellow and green, this mutation revealed something that few have ever seen. Tucked away behind these yellow branches were variegated albino and green chimeric cones.
In the pictures we see the three C's: 'clear characteristics of chimerism' by the well-defined albino/green boarder running through both sides of the right cone. What's intreaguing is how the boundaries between the genotypes do not follow the diamond shape pattern seen when the cones start to split open later in the fall. Seeds originating from these boarder sections may produce chimeric seedings. A joint effort is underway to collect the cones and attempt to propagate the seeds.
Another view of this beautiful aerial albino chimeric redwood.
Aside from this redwood discovery, Lucas has a passion for collecting rare Japanese Maples and has transformed his property into a small personal nursery. Each year Lucas adds to his collection & creates new plant introductions that he grafts himself. Most recently, he has been working with the International Oak Society to introduce a new selection of a Blue Oak that he found. Again, much thanks to Lucas for sharing this amazing find.
Jane from West Sonoma County shares with us this a vigorous growing basal albino redwood in her neighborhood. Originally discovered in 2014 as a thin & sparsely needled tree, this years growth appears to have taken off following the heavy winter rains of 2018/2019. Follow-up reports like Jane’s are important to the research we do at Chimera Redwoods. By monitoring these mutational changes over the years, we may be able to correlate albino redwood survival or mortality due to weather changes within the environment. Factors like: temperature extremes, droughts, floods, & fire may play a role in better understanding growth patterns within these chlorophyll deficient trees.
Thanks, Jane, for the follow up with this unique little tree.
As the old saying goes “good things come in threes" After a relatively quit year for albino redwood reports, September appears to have made up for lost time. Last but not least, the month’s final report was quite stunning. After following up on lead of a white topped redwood growing among the quite orchards of Sutter County, I was amazed when I pulled up to find this golden topped aerial albino redwood. The center of the crown is albino with small sectors of chimerism. What’s unusual about the tree is that it's located below power lines and receives trimming annually. This heading back of the crown contributes to the vigorous regrowth of albino foliage. According to the owner Manuel, it appears the mutation started sometime around 2004 as a small white growth.
Ground shot showing the beautiful coloration in the crown.
What’s dumbfounding about this discovery, is you have a rare albino phenomenon growing on a solitary tree in an area where few Coast Redwoods have been planted. With the combination of the scarcity of the mutation to the ratio of trees planted per square mile, leads researchers to believe that manmade influences are most likely causing inland albino redwoods to occur. It’s thought that a combination of soil fertilization & high UV light may be initiators for albino redwood formation.
Drone view showing the true brilliance of this golden mutation. In the upper center of the picture, one can see a few chimeric shoots exhibiting both white and green foliage.
Owners Manuel & Sally who have always regarded the tree as special, continue to safeguard it into the future. Thank you both for your stewardship for such an important tree.
Closing out the year, we received a pleasant Christmas surprise with the report of this spectacular basal albino redwood. Known by locals since the mid 1950's, this albino redwood stands around 8' tall and is the pure white phenotype. David K. from Sonoma County reported this find while biking in the hills west of Healdsburg. Thanks David for your postcard shot of the tree.
Featured in our 2019 news section: Redwood Extremes in the Urban Environment below are two incredible redwoods that are growing opposites.
In addition to albino redwood studies, there are numerous green mutations and other unusual growth forms within Coast Redwoods that are noteworthy and deserving of further research. The trees within this category are truly unique and a testament to the species plasticity to adapt in new forms. Like albino albino chimeras, some of these mutations listed below are so incredibly rare that only one tree example is known to exist. With the 2019 Save The Redwoods League Redwood Genome Project complete, hopefully scientists will be able to determine what causes these unusual mutations to exist and why. Below is a list of some of the strange and exceptional:
Approximately 100 miles separates two remarkable Coast Redwoods that seem to be polar opposites on the botanical scale. The first sports a massive burl at its base, while the second exhibits uncanny paper-thin bark unseen before within the species.
Ridgway Burl Giant:
Planted in Santa Rosa California around the time of the 1915 World’s Fair, the Ridgway Burl Giant most likely made its humble beginnings during the reconstruction period following the 1906 earthquake. Located within the Ridgway Historic District of the city, the tree sports the largest burl known for a Coast Redwood growing in the urban landscape. Bulbous in appearance like a giant onion, the tree’s burl was measured in 2019 at an impressive 11 feet in diameter. What’s remarkable is the tree quickly tapers down to a modest 3 ½ feet in diameter only 30 feet up from the base, thus giving the tree its unusual appearance. Above this point the tree tops out at a modest 117 feet in height.
According to the Ridgway Burl Giant’s owner, the redwood is approximately 105 years old. When calculating the wood expansion from the tree’s center within that time frame, the radial growth (all things assumed being equal) equated to 66 inches (167.6 cm) from the tree’s center. This equals an average of 5/8 inch (1.6 cm) of annual tree ring growth. This rate of wood accumulation is not uncommon for coast redwoods in a regenerative forest but exceptional for a tree growing in the urban environment.
As you can see from these pictures, the massive burl is taking over the yard in front of this quaint little cottage. One could assume that genetics are the reasons for this impressive growth or possibly an environmental factor may be lending to its unusual appearance. For now, the mystery remains for this stately tree on Ridgway Avenue.
Grey Bark Redwood:
For our next tree you may want to put aside any previous thoughts of what a Coast Redwood is supposed to look like. Unlike the Ridgway Burl Giant, this tree heads in the opposite direction when it comes to amazing growth. Instead of living up to the species reputation for size & height, this redwood has remained incredibly small. If scientists could cross a Sitka Spruce with a Coast Redwood this tree might be the odd result.
Known simply as the Grey Bark Redwood by Sacramento area arborists, this dwarf Coast Redwood is the sole representative known within the species. Standing approximately 32 feet in height exhibiting a weeping top, this tree’s features are so unusual that it would be easy to misidentify even by an expert. The redwood’s bark is the most striking attribute when first approached. It’s incredibly thin and smooth in appearance, exhibiting strange whirls and checkered like patterns. This uncharacteristic look is in contrast to normal Coast Redwoods that exibit stringy, soft, &, verticality aligned ridges within their bark. It’s only after a closer inspection of the tree’s foliage that one can tell is truly a Coast Redwood by the alternate needle arrangement. For those of you wondering if this could be a Dawn Redwood, that species exhibits an opposite needle arrangement and is deciduous unlike their coastal cousins.
According to historical records, the Gray Bark Redwood was planted around 1965 and is approximately 54 years old as of this writing (2019). Within that time frame the tree has grown just a mere 11.5 inches in diameter. This is far below what would be considered average for a tree living for more than five decades. When calculating the average growth from the tree’s center within that time frame, the radial expansion (all things assumed being equal) equated to just 5.75 inches (14.6 cm) of growth from the tree’s center. This equaled just 53/500 of an inch (2.70 mm) of annual ring growth. To put this in perspective, the wood accumulation on this tree is so slow that each year the tree’s rings add the thickness equivalent of just two dimes. With that said, the wood is assumed to be incredibly dense.
Some of the reasons proposed for the tree’s unusual growth is a combination of genetics and the tree’s environment. There’s a possibility that a nutrient deficiency may be at play in its unusual growth. For now, this small coast redwood is another example of how amazing and versatile the Sequoia sempervirens tree species is.
Brad Buttram is an autodidactic tree enthusiast born and raised in northwest Oregon where he resides with his wife and kids. Brad's love and fascination for trees started as a child being in awe of the giant sequoias planted in and around Forest Grove and Hillsboro, Oregon. His fascination for trees grew after he discovered an ancient Oak tree in Washington state that he named ‘Goliath’ when he was only 6 years old. In October 2018 Brad was put in contact with Chimera Redwoods by Crowfoot Nursery after discovering the largest periclinal Grand Chimera known in Oregon. Since that discovery, he has been on a hunt for these strange mutations on planted redwoods throughout the state. Brad has discovered multiple albino redwood sites, including the first NCV known in Oregon. Aside from searching for albino redwoods, Brad is also collecting data on the naturalization of the redwood species in northern Oregon as it relates to climate change.
Dave Kudy a docent at Henry Cowell Redwood State Park shares with us a refreshing video about albino redwoods. He explains that these unique trees are one of nature’s treasures in the forest. As the protector of albino redwoods, Dave hopes to balance the public’s curiosity with protecting these trees into the future.