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What Is the State Tree of California? History, State Symbols & FAQ

giant sequoia redwood

Every state has numerous state symbols that symbolize the state’s unique culture, history, and geography. The official state tree of Florida is the mangrove tree, while California adopted the mighty redwood as their state tree. Let’s find out how it was chosen, why it’s important, and some other interesting info about the Golden State’s other symbols.

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About the Redwoods of California

California is actually home to two species of redwoods: the sequoia or sierra redwood and the California redwood. Both of these are considered the state tree of California, and they have a rich history in the state. California was once home to over 2 million acres of old-growth redwood forests, but rampant deforestation has reduced their numbers to just 4% of that figure. About 900,000 acres of redwood forest is reserved for commercial purposes, while the remainder is on state or federally protected land.

The redwoods are some of the largest and most majestic trees in the world, growing up to 30 feet in diameter and nearly 400 feet in height. With lifespans as long as 3,000 years, the redwood can capture and sequester over five times as much carbon dioxide as other tree species. This makes them extremely valuable for efforts to combat manmade climate change.

As a fun fact, redwoods are generally considered fireproof because they don’t have much sap and their bark is remarkably thick. Scientists have speculated that being impervious to fire is a big factor in how they live so long. While smaller, weaker trees die off in wildfires, the redwood is left with more resources to continue growing. Despite this strength, firefighters in California keep an eagle eye on wildfires near redwoods.

sequioa redwood trees
Image Credit: Kolibrik, Pixabay

How Was the Redwood Chosen as the State Tree of California?

In the 1930s, the people and government of California developed an interest in choosing a state tree to represent the state. Naturally, the gargantuan redwood was one of the first suggestions, and the California state legislature officially adopted the native redwood as California’s state tree in 1937.

However, the naming led to some confusion because the state has two different species referred to as redwoods. In 1951, the Attorney General of California officially clarified that both of these species were considered the state tree, and the legislature made it official 2 years later.

While redwoods grow in southern Oregon, too, California has more redwoods than anywhere else on earth. The trees’ stature, lifespan, environmental importance, and legendary strength are all great reasons that it’s the state tree of California.

What Are Some of California’s Other State Symbols?

California has exactly 37 state symbols, which is more than a lot of states. These range from standard, like a state flower, to atypical, like Gold Rush Ghost Town. Let’s check out some of California’s other state symbols.

  • State Animal: California grizzly bear
  • State Flower: California poppy
  • State Gold Rush Ghost Town: Bodie, CA
  • State Marine mammal: California gray whale
  • State Motto: “Eureka!”

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California has a long and storied history, and its landscape is no exception. With life spans measuring dozens of centuries and measuring up to 30 feet in diameter, both species of redwoods are perfect symbols to represent the Golden State.

Featured Image Credit: Felix Lipov, Shutterstock


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