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Redwoods: the Trees that Built America, by Ben Gaia
Traditionally considered as ancestors, or even immortal, ancient trees that grow huge and reach 2000 years old, dating back to the dinosaurs... Redwoods will see us all out.
More than just a big fat tree with a car tunnel through it, the fire-resistant, weatherproof, insect-proof, light weight, stable, easily split timber has a lovely red-orange colour that fades to silver. Very strong and straight grained, the wood is stable. It remains in place with little warping or shrinking once settled. Like cedar and totara, it is as good as both, for window and door frames, beams, decking, finishing. All three are world renowned for this stable property.
Most of California's settlements and many more cities back east were built in redwood. The old log cabins were roofed with axe-split shingles - wooden redwood tiles, rain- and fire-proof. Then as the trees were threatened, their great groves were the first forests to be protected in the US, and inspired the idea of National Parks.
Giants in the grove
Now for the good part. Sequoia sempervirens grows fast and well in Western New Zealand, out of drought and snow zones. Sheltered, deep soil, a little inland from the sea with mists and rain all year round is what they like, and cattle fencing for ten years.
It grows faster here than US grown Redwood, getting to a millable size in 30 to 50 years instead of 80 years in California. One of the wonders and mysteries of Aotearoa tree growth.
The trees have interlocking root systems that help prevent wind throw, so redwood stands protect themselves from wind damage, a huge problem with pine plantations.
With fertiliser, and pruning and thinning regimes, good forestry practices can produce a blue chip guaranteed return. The economics are longer term than Radiata, but once the cycle is begun, and more land goes into redwood production, it could edge radiata out of its own niche. If so, our NZ softwood forest estate is going to double in value, and hopefully, increase in the quality of our product. We will be growing a fast American softwood with superior qualities including its own insect proofing and rot resistance.
The only disadvantages I can think of are
1. It will get too big if neglected like Eucalypts do and get out of hand in the wrong place, and
2. you can't really use the offcuts for firewood, though you can for biofuel or charcoal.
Watch as the "Billion Trees" program helps to kickstart a growing redwood industry in New Zealand. And I get the feeling the tree itself likes people: it is happy to work alongside us. Redwoods like the idea of a billion redwoods.
redwood seedlings ready to plant
19 year old pruned tree
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