The Redwood forests in California are familiar to most Americans even if they have never visited them. The popular song, "This Land is Your Land" even mentions them. What most people don't know is that there were once Redwoods located in Colorado. Redwoods are known to live from 500 to 700 years, but on the coast they can live up to 2,000 years, which is mostly due the fact that the trees have no known diseases. If it were not for fire, wind and men wielding axes, the trees would have surely thrived and spread.
A man named Fray Juan Crespi first recorded the existence of Redwood trees in 1769. But it was some time later that Archibald Menzies botanically discovered them. His collections date back to 1794. He named the conifers Palo Colorado, which means red trees in Spanish. The Redwood has a broad shallow root system, but can grow to great heights, which is why so many are lost to wind, and although they produce many seeds, only around two in 10 will actually germinate.
Fossilized Redwood trees have been discovered in many places including areas where trees can no longer grow at all, such as between Siberia and Alaska. In North America they are known to have grown in Texas, Pennsylvania, California, Wyoming, Oregon, Washington, Canada, Greenland, Alaska, Colorado and St. Lawrence Island. In areas such as these, fossilized logs, stumps or large sections of wood have been found. Prior to the first extensive glaciations, Redwoods also flourished in Europe, having been discovered in France, Bohemia, Switzerland, Germany, England, Austria and Norway.
The Florissant Petrified Forest
In Colorado's Florissant Petrified Forest is what remains of massive Redwood trees, the petrified examples of what was once a dominant forest in the area with 150 different species of plants. The forest also is the home of the "Redwood Trio,” which is one of the most famous specimens of the fossil forest. Three massive stumps, which would have originally grown from rooted sprouts that originated from the base of the parent tree, eventually died away leaving only its offspring.
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument
In the middle of Colorado lies what looks like a grass-covered valley. It is the site of one of the largest and most prolific fossil finds in the world. Not only are there finely defined fossils of other plants and insects, but also stumps of Redwood trees that are measure up to 14 feet in diameter. Prehistoric Colorado would have looked much different than it does today, with signs of water birds, clams and other aquatic plants.