Appletons Tree Nursery Ltd, 1748 Main Road South, Wakefield, Nelson, Phone 03 541 8309, Fax 03 541 8007
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Sonoma County vinyards
and redwoods

Southern Mendocino
County redwoods

Sonoma ridgetop redwoods

Even-aged second growth
redwoods and douglas fir

Bill Libby amongst mixed
species trials

Blodgett Forest, recently
logged and replanted
Trip 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.

Bill 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 stumps.

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 of redwood.

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 small.

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.

Agriculture occupied 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 further inland.

... more

Avenue of Gaints