Sonoma County vinyards
Sonoma ridgetop redwoods
Even-aged second growth
redwoods and douglas
Bill Libby amongst mixed
Blodgett Forest, recently
logged and replanted
to Northern California
In May of 2004 I was fortunate to visit Northern
California and see the major forestry species
growing in their natural environment. Understanding
how the climate, soils, other vegetation and
forest management interacts is important, when
making comparison with New Zealand conditions.
Libby has clarified usage of local names in California.
Redwood refers to the coastal redwood, Sequoia
sempervirens; and Sequoia to Sequoiadendron giganteum
from the inland Sierra Nevada Range.
Arriving in San Francisco
I drove north through vineyards in typical valleys
of Sonoma country. Farmers were baling hay and
cultivating dry dusty fields, rather like Nelson
in January. Large redwoods were mainly on upper
slopes and ridges rising to 1200 feet, with grapes
and pasture on the lower slopes.
North of Boonville
in Mendocino County the valleys give way to broken
mountainous country, the highest peaks reaching
to over 5000 feet. Redwood is the dominant species
mixed well with Douglas fir and Hemlock. Closer
to the coast where salt spray is a factor Sitka
spruce, the blue form of Pinus muricata, planted
Radiata pine and macrocarpa cypress predominate,
the cypress aggressively naturalising.
Fort Bragg was of special
interest, given the importance of this Douglas
fir provenance in N.Z. and the preferred seedlot
in our nursery.
Seed was collected
in 1957 by Egan Larsen, for F.R.I., Rotorua, along
the old Casper Lumber Co. road at an altitude of
500 ft, in Jackson State Demonstration Forest.
Eric, my father despatched this seed from the Central
Seed Store to various Forest Service nurseries,
and from 1957-60 supervised planting of provenance
trials in Hanmer, Naseby, Berwick and Rankleburn.
I was able to visit
the general collection area, the original Douglas
fir having been logged and now
predominantly in redwood. Further along the logging
road there were areas of large Douglas fir. What
surprised me was the dominance of redwood after
logging due to its ability to coppice from the
I planned my visit
to travel the roads bisecting the Coastal Ranges.
State Highway 1 leaves the coast north of Rockport,
climbing to an altitude of approximately 2000 feet,
through relatively even second growth of redwood
and Douglas fir, with the height and diameter reducing
closer to the summit of the range. This area is
the northern limit of the main central population
Driving down the eastern
side of the range, redwood had disappeared, replaced
by evergreen oak, madrone and pine species among
the Douglas fir.
Travelling north down
the Eel River the old highway passes through the
Avenue of the Giants. If you really want to be
humble before nature, this is the place to be.
It is not a dark forest, and even with high overcast,
I was relieved my slides captured the true grandeur
of these Sequoia sempervirens. Having seen the
largest, by comparison everything else seemed rather
A Redwood plantation
at Scotia is planted in rows and pruned to 6 metres,
this young stand was most impressive with a dark
interior and no brushweeds present.
relatively small areas of river flats, there was
a coastal fishing fleet, but forestry was the major
economic force and employer.
Travelling north almost
to the Oregon border, I visited Bill Ross who runs
an open ground nursery similar to our own. As a
trained forester he was able to answer my many
questions regarding nursery practises and successful
establishment in the forest.
Heading east from Eureka
to Redding, the road climbs from the valley over
a high pass, redwood giving way to Douglas fir,
hemlock, grand and white fir with pine species
Avenue of Gaints