Sequoia vs. Redwood

They are often confused in peoples minds, but not if you actually look at them. First they grow in different climates and regions (though they will both survive, if not reproduce, in many different climates. Indeed there is a parking lot in Napa, CA with one of each (actually 2 redwoods, 1 sequoia).

Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) and Sequoias (Sequoiadendron giganteum) are very different trees. The wood of each may be red, and the cones may both be small, both have very tall examples, but they are very different. Redwoods are coastal -- northern California coast primarily. Sequoias are inland (currently in a series of groves on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada (California) from about Yosemite National Park to southern Sequoia National Park. The largest accessible groves are in Sequoia, Kings Canyon or Yosemite National Parks, but others are scattered along the western slopes, mostly in relatively moist areas.

Giant Sequoia Tree, closeup of Leaves
Closeup of Sequoia -- the leaves look like scales (almost cedars that have not been ironed flat). Generally Sequoias are not good for lumber -- the trees break when they fall (e.g. after cutting) and the wood isn't good for large structural pieces. Giant Sequoia, Full View of General Sherman Tree
Redwood Tree, closeup of leaves Closeup of Redwood -- The leaves are clearly different. Redwoods are good for lumber (probably too good for their own survival). Redwood Tree, Bottom of tallest tree, Tallest Redwood

Redwoods tend to grow up until they fall over, Sequoias grow up until they are taller than the surrounding pines, then the tops are broken by storms and the trees get larger, but not a lot taller. When looking at them, it is easier to confuse redwoods with hemlocks (the tree, not the plant associated with Socrates) and sequoias with cedars (though cedars have that "ironed" look to their leaves) than redwoods with sequoias. Each type of tree is closely tied to the related National Park. Visit both since each one is impressive on its own and a very different experience from the other. Redwoods, being found along the rainier coast, tend to have far more undergrowth around them and grow in much denser clusters. The Sequoia zone in the Sierra Nevada is much drier (though Sequoias are found in more moist settings than Lodgepole and Ponderosa pines) and has far less undergrowth than is typical in the coast ranges. This makes it easier to get good pictures of single Sequoias than Redwoods.

You may also be interested in Grand Canyon National Park.

Return to my Sequoia Kings Canyon home page.