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Coast Redwood

Sequoia photo by Garth Ferber

Interlaken Park's lofty Redwood trees

    Seattle's Interlaken Park is the forested slope that serves to separate two neighborhoods: Capitol Hill and Montlake. The current rustic asphalt road, gently meandering through a lush forest, was originally a cindered bicycle path in the late 1890s. Archive records reveal that in 1909 much clearing and planting was done; the roadway was resurfaced in 1910.
    At some point, as early as 1909, or as late as the 1930s, a grove of a dozen redwood trees was planted alongside that portion of the boulevard uphill from where 22nd Avenue E dead-ends off Boyer Avenue E.
    These coast redwoods are the world-famous tall trees that thrive in the coastal fog belt of California and SW Oregon. Unlike many other redwoods planted in Seattle, this grove is in a notably dry site. That should restrict their growth. Also, all were once topped --I guess to allow a clearer view for the school uphill from them. But though next to a compacted road, in a dry site, and topped, one of them has been Seattle's tallest coast redwood. It was 130 feet in 1980, was 165.5 feet in 2004, was 171 feet in 2010, and 174 feet in 2012 ( 180.5 in 2016). The only taller specimen known in the whole state was planted at Quinault Lake (Olympic Rain Forest) --a very wet site affording optimal growth.
    Every spring, the ground beneath these Interlaken redwoods is covered with sprouting seedlings. But lacking summer moisture from fog or rain, they all die --Seattle's famous rainfall comes in winter, not summer when plants are growing and need it. One notably dry spring, I was amazed to see the redwood seeds sprouting left and right --in dusty dry soil. I could not imagine what was going on. But that night, rain came. The seeds somehow "knew" it would rain! They still ended up dying in the ensuing dryness of summer. But I shall never forget what seemed almost miraculous. Though topped, unwatered, and growing next to a road, these redwoods have served as a living symbol of "beating the odds," and have always been dear to my heart.
    Interlaken Park has other trees of city-wide importance for exceptional height.
    Below are listed 9 trees that were measured in 2004, and cited in my book Trees of Seattle, with their 2010 heights:

White Birch still about 110 feet
Yellow Birch still about 74 feet
China Fir grew from 84 to 88.5 feet
Smoothleaf Elm grew from 90 to 95 (at least) feet
Norway Maple I could not make it even the 90 feet measured then
Red Maple I cannot improve on its 92 feet --but know it is taller
hybrid Planetree grew from 96 to 100 feet
Eastern White Pine grew from 115 to 117 feet
Pussy Willow shrank from 70 to 67.5 feet

    Also, I measured a European Hazel 51 feet tall.
    I did not attempt to remeasure a towering Black Cottonwood in adjacent Boren Park.
    The measurements were made using a laser range-finder. For accuracy, the measurer needs an unimpeded sightline to both the tree base, and the very top. In the case of the maples and some other trees, this proved impossible due to the forest density.

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Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert
Arthur Lee Jacobson plant expert

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