Copyright 2009 - 2016 by Mario Vaden
Announcement > If you are aware of lesser-known albino redwoods, whether 50 ft. tall, 2 inches tall, or a single albino branch 100 feet up on a mostly green redwood, please send a message to Zane Moore or Tom Stapleton at [email protected]. Their interest for locations is more along the lines of discovery and research. Even if you know of a bonafide single albino needle, I'm sure they would be interested.
The rare white redwoods called "albino" are also called ghost redwoods. Albino redwoods are very rare. Technically, albino is an animal or human situation where pigment melanin is not produced. And coast redwood does not have melanin. Therefore "albino" redwood is a figurative name. What albino redwood does not produce is the chlorophyll that provides so much green color to other coast redwoods.
Be sure to read my extra blog post about albino redwoods. I added it after new research was released in news articles that added extra hyperbole or embellishment ... See: Albino Redwood is not a Messiah
Also, they are not parasites. It's not like they germinate and and later attach roots or parts into mature redwood roots, limbs or burls, as Mistletoe would to oaks. The albino redwoods appear to be sprouts that originated from a host redwood: a part that formed from it. Being part of a redwood does not make something parasitic. Flowers, bark and cones are attached to redwoods and receive what they need from it too, without much detriment.
It was commonly said or written (pre-2010) that about 50 albino redwoods exist, the tallest being about 70 feet tall. If 50 were known to exist, my estimate or thought was that 100 or more should exist. Extra ones could be inches tall and undiscovered. My reasoning is that if Lost Monarch the largest coast redwood was not discovered until 1998, there must be undiscovered albino plants under 12 inches tall.
Updates: scroll down the page for some information updates.
If you find a naturally occuring albino redwood, don't remove twigs for souvenirs or for propagation. There is too little albino foliage in existence to risk picking their bones clean.
The albino redwoods can be basal or "aerial" up in the canopy of a green coast redwood. One growth of albino redwood is 280 ft. high in the canopy of a 328 ft. tall coast redwood. But as entire stems, the tallest are not much higher than about 50 ft. tall, like one described in Humboldt Redwoods State Park, which is one I measured quite a few years ago. But I recall hearing about one 70 ft. tall, probably in an email from Dr. Steve Sillett.
The foliage can be white, cream or sort of light yellow. Any extra coloration isn't chlorophyll related, but pigments, possibly related to increased exposure.
Apparently these were discovered back in 1866, about 150 years ago. Although, it's very likely someone like native Americans noticed these unusual redwoods and foliage years before that.
Albino redwoods are not sterile as once believed. In 1976, Dale Holderman, a forester, discovered an albino redwood with buds and pollen. This was included in the book The White Redwoods by Douglas Davis and Dale Holderman. The pollen was dusted onto normal redwoods to see if albino redwoods could cause seeds. Holderman discovered that of 161 seedlings, 56 were green, 43 variegated green & white, and 62 others were all white. The 62 all-white seedlings died in days, because they were not attached to another green foliage redwood. The experiment showed that green redwoods were made that could retain the albino gene. This sheds more light on how white redwoods can sprout from green redwoods, like near burls.
At least 6 albino redwoods grow in Humboldt Redwoods State Park of Northern California near Highway 101. The location of one was published. I want to skip detailed directions here. But it is within 1.85 miles of Founders Grove near Avenue of the Giants. Another albino redwood about 3 to 4 miles from Redcrest, California, is about 20' tall. Much farther south, Big Sur campground forest was reported to have a small albino redwood too. One man, Will Russell, Ph.D., once noted at sempervirens.org that he encountered about a dozen albino redwood during hikes in the Santa Cruz mountains.
There is no guarantee that one you read about will still be there when you go looking. The lifespan is more or less unknown, but every reference I found says they don't live a long time on the redwood scale of life.
Lacking chlorophyll for photosythesis, albino redwoods are dependent upon a parent redwood host for nutrition. Albino redwoods are actually part of another redwood. They can grow out of a burl growth too. Basically, they begin as basal sprouts or sucker growth growth from roots.
2013 Update #1
Zane Moore, a Colorado State University undergraduate and redwood enthusiast, sent a note (2013) that there are about 100 known albino redwoods. These have been spotted, discovered, or located by Zane (12) , Dave Holderman (60), Dave Kuty (30+) and others. The lion's share are in Santa Cruze county and San Mateo county, with more scattered as far north as Humboldt Redwoods State Park.
And 4 variegated ... part green & part albino ... have been known to exist.
There are also albino redwoods or albino limbs that grow up in the canopy.
2013 Update #2
December 28, 2013, Zane Moore emailed that there are now 208 Albino Redwoods known, of which 157 albino redwoods are naturally occuring. This message exchange was continuation of a conversation about the northernmost Albino Redwood known, which is in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. As of December 2013, no Albino Redwood is known naturally occuring, north of Prairie Creek Redwoods SP.
2014 Update #3 - Cold-hardiness
In spring 2014, following the previous winter's brief burst of exceptionally cold temperatures, I looked at several albino redwoods in Humboldt county. One was missing the white foliage altogether. And a couple others had about 60% as much white foliage as the few years preceding.
Going on observation alone, I suspect that albino foliage is less cold-hardy than the green needles on most other Coast Redwoods.
2016 Update #4 - northernmost + "The come-back Kid"
Whereas 2013-2014's winter put the hurt to some albino redwood foliage, apparently they can recover. For example, the "Christmas" albino near Avenue of the Giants lost 80% or more of it's white foliage. After a couple of years, new white growth emerged and the appearance returned to what looks more "normal" for that particular coast redwood.
Albino coast redwood has been confirmed growing in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, making it the northernmost naturally ocurring albino redwood in the old growth parks.
2016 Update #5 - There are now about 270 known naturally occuring albino redwoods. about 20% of them are in Humboldt Redwoods State Park area. This information was also shared in a talk by Zane Moore and Tom Stapleton at Humboldt Redwoods State Park, June 27, 2015, posted on Youtube for review. Albino redwood can exist outside the natural range anywhere the species is planted. One albino redwood was photographed in one canopy, up in Seattle, Washington.