7. Fairy Ring in the Making
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Fairy Rings Result from Damaged Parent Tree

Fossil records show that the coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) first appeared about 140 million years ago. As a species, redwoods are successful for many reasons. They are highly variable genetically, appear to be responsive to environmental conditions, and can reproduce either by producing clonal sprouts or by the mating of pollen and seed cones. However, it is probably their ability to reproduce through sprouting, even after severe damage, that makes the redwood such a vital and robust species.

The group of redwoods at this stop illustrates the redwood's sprouting ability. The redwood trees encircling the larger tree are sprouts which grew from the base of the parent tree, probably because of a damaging fire that the parent survived (notice fire scars at its base). Several groups of encircling tree sprouts can be seen throughout the forest. In some of these circles, unlike this group of trees, the parent tree in the middle has died or was cut down. People call these encircling sprouts, fairy rings or cathedral spires.

This "Fairy Ring in the Making" is 176 feet tall and, with its six-tree girth, is 62.5 feet in circumference.

Another Tree Grows from Crown

More evidence of how sprouting keeps the coast redwood resilient when damaged is seen in the tree to the east of the Fairy Ring in the Making (or down the ravine). The larger tree in this two-trunk redwood has an unusual crown. Another tree is growing from its top. The extra tree, sprouting from a lateral branch and measuring 30 feet, is probably the result of damage to the tree's crown by lightning or high winds.

Typical of an old growth, this tree is probably investing more energy in laterally expanding and stabilizing its crown. Younger redwoods use most of their energy to grow taller.

This old-growth double-tree is 203 feet tall, including the extra tree growing from the crown; the combined circumference of both trees is 36.5 feet.

Crowns of Old-Growth Trees Draped with Lichen

The crowns of most old-growth trees in Marcel's Forest are draped with lichen. Look for the green fish-net fungus, sometimes called "Old-Man's Beard," hanging from high branches or along the trail, after winter storms have blown it to the ground.

Behind you, on the upslope side of the trail, green fish-net lichen hangs from the branches of a dying Douglas-fir. Often confused with moss, lichen is both an alga and a fungus. Alga and fungus work together in order to survive. The algal partner photosynthesizes, thereby providing food, while the fungal partner absorbs water and provides structure so that the alga doesn't dry up and die.


Visitors Hiking Along Old-Growth Loop