The First Redwoods

Fossilized redwood leaves

The redwood lineage has lived on Earth for many millions of years. The first recognizable Sequoia left its imprint in the fossil record 200 millions ago, during the Jurassic when dinosaurs roamed the land and filled the sea. If we journeyed back through time to walk through those forests in search of the first redwoods, we would see many conifers and fantastic ferns that bore large seeds, species that sadly went extinct so long ago.

Would we have recognized redwoods among the markedly different flora and fauna of the past? I like to think so, yes! What remains today of these first redwoods are imprints of the leaves and cones, clues suggesting redwoods leaves then and now were not incredibly different.

Amazingly, the redwoods survived the ages as geologic time ticked forward as so many other plants and animals went extinct. The redwood distribution has radically shrunk over the past 60 million years and yet we are so lucky to still have redwoods along the West Coast of North America.

To learn more about the current distribution of redwoods, click here.

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About Emily Burns

Emily Burns, the League’s former Director of Science, led the research program that includes the Redwoods and Climate Change Initiative. She holds a PhD in Integrative Biology on the impacts of fog on coast redwood forest flora from the University of California, Berkeley.

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