As drought persists, redwoods face a precarious future | June 25, 2021 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - June 25, 2021

As drought persists, redwoods face a precarious future

This summer could start years of decline for redwoods in the Bay Area

by Sue Dremann

Looking more like candidates for tinder than the stately evergreens emblematic of California, the line of coast redwoods along Alma Street near the Palo Alto Caltrain station appear to be dying. Their branches are bare and dessicated, with broken limbs and sparse, drying leaves.

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Email Staff Writer Sue Dremann at [email protected]


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2021 at 9:36 am

Bystander is a registered user.

Having listened to many docents talk about the coastal Redwoods, and as the article states, Redwoods get most of their moisture from the pine needles collecting moisture from the fog and then dropping them to the forest floor to be sucked up by the roots.

Redwoods have survived droughts for centuries, much longer than the records go back. The difference as far as I can see is that the Redwoods in urban and suburban areas are now surrounded by concrete under their branches which means that the droplets of moisture can't reach the roots.

Perhaps a simple way to remedy this is to remove the concrete and return an area of soil beneath the trees so that the falling moisture can reach the roots.

Posted by ALB
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 25, 2021 at 9:37 am

ALB is a registered user.

I have saved my redwoods by following the advice of my trusted arborist McClenahan. I had noticed the top trunk was no longer red but grey. The green was dropping and thinning due to stress. We had soaker hoses installed and cedar mulch to protect the root system. The soaker hoses are used once a week at a slow drip for eight hours. McClenahan provided the aromatic and protecting cedar mulch. The trees have rebounded and are green again. These trees are sacred to me as my relatives planted them in the twenties.

The water table has dropped and the roots can no longer access water as they had done for decades. If you love your redwoods engage a trusted landscaper. Ramon Tamayo who was referred to me by my arborist placed the hoses correctly never right up to the trunk. Never spray the trunk with water. You can also do a Nitrogen feeding in spring and fall to help your trees. You must ACT now.

Posted by Not Good Enough
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2021 at 10:07 am

Not Good Enough is a registered user.

City advises during last drought was water most all your trees including Redwoods. You don’t water Oaks in the summer. Redwoods take more water than some trees.

Palo Alto estimates about 2,500 Redwoods (Sequoia smpervirens) plus many more on private property, but unlike Oaks there’s never been a count of Redwoods on public and private land, so we have no idea how many we have - a lot. We should find out to not make ill informed decisions about them should the City ever aim to do so.

Here, to only provide photos of Redwoods in poor condition at PA Square and not show the dead Oaks also there (Page Mill side) is a glaring omission. There are lovely healthy Redwoods at PA Square not located on the parking lots. Trees died at PA Square not because they were Redwoods (or Oaks), but because they were big trees chosen by the owners and doomed by the parking lot design that restricted soil space and water.

Our Urban Foresters say that rarely is one factor alone the reason for a Redwoods decline, such as lack of water. Construction, restricted water or too much, etc. can combine to kill Redwoods, Oaks or other trees.

I’m not sure how much weight to give the information that Redwoods get 13-45% of their water via fog, given the variable. I get they like fog some.
Scientists do know this for sure - our Redwoods right here are by far the earths champion carbon sequesters (along with cousins, giant Sequoia of the Sierra). They soak up carbon like crazy, doing it vertically. That they grow very fast and live very long means they start sucking up a lot very soon and hold on to it a very long time.

The downside of Redwoods is they need water. The upside is vast. We need to be informed about all that this tree provides value of the Redwoods is we have. We know they are lovely when healthy, providing critical climate change positives - carbon sequestering, other valuable functions, and its heart thumping beauty.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 25, 2021 at 10:37 am

Online Name is a registered user.

ALB raises excellent points. During the last drought, we converted to drought-tolerant landscaping but the landscaper put the irrigation so deep water never reached the roots. We spent a fortune on him, soaring water bills and folks to diagnose the problem until a commercial irrigation guy with an underground xray machine showed us the problem.

The right people and good advice matter.

Posted by ALB
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 25, 2021 at 10:43 am

ALB is a registered user.

Regarding the Palo Alto Square loss of redwoods it must be stated that the redwoods on the corner of Page Mill Road and El Camino Real were allowed to die off. Why? They were not irrigated. What is the intent of the landlord? The trees could have been saved. This indifference is
unconscionable. This is not about the trees being near a parking lot. This is about NEGLECT.
El Palo Alto cannot rely on misting alone and maybe it does not. I sincerely hope that every effort of the recently hired city arborist will do everything in his power to ensure that this tree is saved.

Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2021 at 10:57 am

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

Big picture. The fundamental problem is climate change. Treating your personal tree is not the solution. We need to get collectively serious about reducing our use of fossil fuels....significantly and immediately. No excuses. In the Bay Area--driving is one of the biggest generators of green house gas emissions.

We each need to look at the way we are living and make big changes for the sake of our redwoods and for the sakes of our children and grandchildren. The selfishness of our current lifestyle is immense. Regular jet-fueled vacations on other continents, driving five miles or less to work, driving for local trips that could easily be done by bike or on foot. We each need to change. Climate change is starting to affect our human food and water supplies in big ways. There is no time time to waste. Take action now.

Ask not what your country can do for you...It's time to start acting like adults and take charge of averting a disaster that could change everything.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 25, 2021 at 11:16 am

Online Name is a registered user.

@Consider Your Options, Climate change matters of course. It's a global problem.

Re selfishness, tell that to the developers and companies adding millions of square feet of offices whose workers aren't commuting by broomstick, whose Uber/Lyft increased car trips rather than decreasing them as their proponents claimed.

We can more directly and immediately control our immediate environment if we stop building millions of square feet of offices in Santa Clara County which means more congestion, higher housing targets and more density, higher housing prices because a more pittance are affordable housing -- all during a drought while we experience FlexAlerts, rolling blackouts and power outages.

Palo Alto's commuter population tripled in the past 3 years. Converting everyone to electric vehicles sounds great until we've so overtaxed the electrical grid that we're all suffering brownouts just as we did when they rushed to decommission the gas plants without adequate backups.

Posted by hkatrs
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 25, 2021 at 12:03 pm

hkatrs is a registered user.

The City of PA should stop all developers and real estate companies prepping homes for sale and residents putting in thirsty landscaping, especially during the spring and summer and conserve water and stop new plants and trees from dying prematurely.

The Cities Planning Department can play a big role in Climate Conservation Practices.

Posted by Consider Your Options.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 25, 2021 at 3:40 pm

Consider Your Options. is a registered user.

Blame the developers all you want. The problem is how we live today. So let's each do what we can to make a difference.

I am biking and walking more for local trips on our beautiful Palo Alto shady streets. I am over sixty, and biking in Palo Alto is just not that hard. (In fact, it's quite enjoyable. And, you know what they say, "Use it, or lose it!") We are eating less meat, buying less stuff, reusing stuff, and otherwise trying to find ways to help reverse the fundamental problem of climate change. I'm trying to use transit more, though I admit there isn't enough service in our town. I am thinking about buying an electric bike for longer trips because I can't ride hills easily any more, so for trips out of town I need that assist. I'm also voting for people who are willing to make the tough calls necessary to address the climate crisis, writing letters to electeds asking them to support legislation that will make a difference.

Friends, we can do this! If we collectively do what we can, we will leave our children a livable planet. They deserve that. We owe them that...and, really, it's just not that hard.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 26, 2021 at 2:45 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

El Palo Alto's survival makes the New York Times Web Link

Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 26, 2021 at 10:13 pm

eileen is a registered user.

"Consider Your Options". I'm glad you are out and about with your bike. That is an admirable thing. However, everyone in this town could ride their bike and that WOULD NOT SAVE THE TREES!

Developers are absolutely taking away our precious tree canopy. Shady streets, permeable surfaces, rooftop gardens or solar, open space, are the things that our modern cities need now.

"Consider Your Options". taking care of your personal tree is absolutely the RIGHT THING TO DO! Conservation starts right here in your backyard!

Posted by Larry Costa
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 27, 2021 at 9:14 am

Larry Costa is a registered user.

If water conservation is the primary concern being addressed, let's start with three of of biggest H2O guzzlers...

(1) Golf courses

(2) Cemeteries

(3) Parks

Reducing irrigation at these three sites will greatly reduce the impact of any impending drought.

So let Rinconada and Mitchell Park (among others) go 'brown' along with Alta Mesa Cemetary and the Palo Alto Municipal Golf Course. Add to that the Palo Alto Hills Country Club Golf Course and the Little League baseball diamond on Middlefield Road.

The problem with most Palo Altans is that they want to have their cake and it it too.

Posted by Willow Pahne
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 27, 2021 at 7:42 pm

Willow Pahne is a registered user.

The vast acreage used for public and private golf courses could be better used to meet housing construction needs.

Posted by Simon Platte
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 28, 2021 at 9:36 am

Simon Platte is a registered user.

# Treating your personal tree is not the solution.

Only in Palo Alto do people have their own 'personal' Sequoia tree.

Is this akin to someone residing out in the desert having their own pet cactus?

On the other hand, there are far less H2O concerns caring for a cactus plant.

Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 28, 2021 at 11:11 am

eileen is a registered user.

Simon Platte, when a large tree is located in your yard, it is the homeowner's responsibility to take care of it, right? Your response adds to the very problem here. Too many people do not want to bother with landscaping (drought resistant) or the tree that is outside their front door. There are many reasons for that. People might be renting, landlords do not invest in good gardeners, it's expensive to pay for arborists, some people come from dense areas where there is not much tree canopy. We need tree canopy and permeable areas as we warm up and there is less rain.

Posted by Lauren Costanza
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 29, 2021 at 8:33 am

Lauren Costanza is a registered user.

"...when a large tree is located in your yard, it is the homeowner's responsibility to take care of it, right?"

If the tree is in the FRONT yard and close to a sidewalk, sometimes it belongs to the city and it is their responsibility to tend to it (e.g. pruning/trimming, irrigation etc.). The city should also rake/blow the leaves as well and be FULLY responsible for any fallen branches and subsequent damages.

We have an acacia tree in front that belongs to the city and I'd just as soon chop it down but am unable to do so.

Hoping it will just die on its own and then the city will have to remove it.

Posted by Orville Bentley
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 29, 2021 at 1:41 pm

Orville Bentley is a registered user.

A friend who resides in Mountain View near Cuesta Park DETESTS the messy city-planted ginko trees that drop leaves in waves during the winter months.

And the gardeners simply blow them onto the curb and they eventually wind up in someone else's front lawn.

Meanwhile various out of towners stop by every winter to take pictures of this messy golden mulch with their cellphones as if it were some big deal.

Perhaps they should consider bringing a rake and hauling away the stuff for their own front yards.

I chopped down a city-owned tree once and was fined accordingly.

But at least the city never replaced it.

Good riddance.

Posted by The Moral Compass
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 29, 2021 at 3:09 pm

The Moral Compass is a registered user.

It is the responsibility of PA Municipal Services to prevent and to expediently clean-up the branches from any city-owned Sequoia when they come crashing down on your private property during a winter storm regardless of the outdoor weather.

Either that or chop them all down.

Posted by Peter Christian
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 30, 2021 at 9:17 am

Peter Christian is a registered user.

Trees with short roots (Sequoias and Eucalyptus) should be taken out if they are situated near a residency in the event of heavy storm winds.

No one needs a 'pet Sequoia' as these trees are also messy...leaving twigs, fallen branches and debris all over the place.

Posted by ALB
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 1, 2021 at 8:03 pm

ALB is a registered user.

So Costanza if the tree is on your property then it is your responsibility. Should the tree be IN the city strip then the responsibility lies with the city. If you detest hour Acacia then have it removed.

Posted by maguro_01
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 2, 2021 at 4:44 am

maguro_01 is a registered user.

Preserving trees through dry times can be a matter of priority. A lawn can be regrown in a couple of seasons along with decorative shrubs, whereas a tree could take a century or more. If big trees are fragile from being hemmed in, pavement, including sidewalks, can be replaced with steel gratings including the structures used in industrial catwalks on the ground.

If it appears that more heat and drought will become essentially normal then all ground cover will need a rethink and older buildings will need some reconstruction. Transportation would need investment to operate at higher temperatures (OT. - VTA Light Rail is gone permanently?). Building underground is harder in an earthquake area as a response to higher, or lower, temperatures.

We see some people would like to freeze all construction as though that would bring more rain. I came to the area in 1982. Even then towns around here were building up industrial/commercial development with freeway access. The tax money was good and where people lived was their problem. But with so many playing the game it has more than played out. But it's still true that limiting home construction jacks up the local housing prices substantially for sellers and it makes little sense for most retirees to stay here. That is not too cynical.

Posted by Erin Carmody
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 3, 2021 at 8:38 am

Erin Carmody is a registered user.

Fortunately we do not have any trees (city owned or private) that create these kinds of issues.

A 'pet sequoia tree' is utterly useless and messy as are eucalyptus and ginko trees.

We only have trees that are practical in their own right (i.e. lemon, almond, and some baby avocado saplings).

If you cannot eat from the the tree why even bother?

Pine trees and redwood trees are better served being in a public park or recreation area.

Posted by Pat Markevitch
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 4, 2021 at 12:03 am

Pat Markevitch is a registered user.

Not Good Enough:

Web Link

Here is the Urban Forest Master Plan. Read up on our wonderful tree canopy.

Posted by Efren Morales
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jul 4, 2021 at 9:22 am

Efren Morales is a registered user.

As a professional tree climber and arborist, I cut down trees and trim branches every day for a living.

When trees pose a safety hazard or obstruct views, they must come down or be cut back severely.

Would you prefer to have a useless and messy Sequoia tree in your back yard just for the sake of having one when it could come crashing down on your home during a heavy storm?

Posted by Herschel Green
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 5, 2021 at 10:14 am

Herschel Green is a registered user.

"Pine trees and redwood trees are better served being in a public park or recreation area."

What is even stupider is intentionally planting redwood trees.

A collegue at work resides near Cuesta Park in MV where the city actually planted these monstrosities and every winter during heavy winds, the trees break branches and leave their crap all over his roof clogging the drains.

Like some people, redwood trees are an unnecessary nuisance.

Posted by Julie Romano
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 5, 2021 at 12:42 pm

Julie Romano is a registered user.

If these redwoods are posing that much of a problem, why not just chop them down and mill the lumber for something more useful?

It's not like these trees are an endangered species so why waste water in the event of a drought especially if these trees are on private property.

Only tree-huggers are sweating bullets.

Posted by Alan Whitmire
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 5, 2021 at 1:40 pm

Alan Whitmire is a registered user.

We chopped down our redwood tree and it was no big loss.

The tree cutters turned the downed tree into garden stepping stones which was a lot more useful than a dumb tree.

Posted by Robert Ortiz
a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2021 at 8:28 am

Robert Ortiz is a registered user.

And those redwood stepping stones are
also bio-degradable.

What better way to get rid of nuisance trees while not harming the environment?

Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 14, 2021 at 4:33 pm

eileen is a registered user.

Well, if you cut down a nuisance tree then replace it with a shade tree.
It is only going to get hotter going forward and our leafy trees shade our houses!

Posted by Olivia Montenegro
a resident of another community
on Jul 15, 2021 at 4:41 pm

Olivia Montenegro is a registered user.

The key is not to replace a MESSY nuisance tree (like an evergreen Sequoia) with a MESSY deciduous tree (i.e maple, ginkgo etc.) that drops tons of leaves in the winter.

Better to have succulents and cactus...saves on water + you don't have to clean up after them.

Posted by maguro_01
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 15, 2021 at 8:28 pm

maguro_01 is a registered user.

There appears to be quite a number of people who want a suburban house and yard but with no landscape work like a condo. Transplanted urbanites? Maybe the HOA wouldn't allow gravel yards? So why not fake grass.. and do a search on "Outdoor artificial trees" for a substantial selection. Malls can buy them and you can too - even artificial ivy cover for walls, bushes, and flowers.

If you have a yard like a small park it would take too much time to keep it in order, true. We understand. But otherwise, if someone is too big to occasionally do some yard work, even plant flowers or whatever, then what's the point? You and your kids live in a virtual world anyway, so why not make a virtual yard?

It would use no water at all.

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