Copyright 2009 by Mario Vaden
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The coast redwood Iluvatar is located in Prairie Creek Redwoods State park.
For reference, 2009 data for Iluvatar puts it at 3rd largest among all known coast redwoods. 300.2' or 91.5 meters tall, 20.5' diameter dbh and 37,500 cubic feet wood volume.
Iluvatar has a very large canopy with up to 220 trunks and stems, filling up to 30,000 cubic yards or space overhead.
It is one of many redwoods in Atlas Grove. And where is it located? A terrace will have to do for now. One scientific report I came across a coupld of years ago described the location as a "alluvial terrace of Prairie Creek" where sedimentation happened centuries ago, but did not pin-point at what spot along the creek's route.
Other redwoods near it have names like Kronos, Rhea, Zeus, Pleiades I, Pleiades II, , Bell, Ballantine, Broken Top, Prometheus, Epimetheus, Buena Vista, Demeter.
Author Richard Preston wrote many things about Iluvatar in his book The Wild Trees, released in 2007. In case you are interested, see my book review.
Some folks have speculated whether or not Iluvatar is the huge redwood in the composite photo that National Geographic put in their October 2009 issue. Maybe you will order a copy of that National Geographic and take a guess. It covers the 1800 mile Redwood Transect as well as some aspect of canopy research..
The National Geographic photographer for that issue was Michael Nichols. He made a final composite image using 84 photographs. Those were taken by raising cameras up through the canopy. For that method to work, there had to be a clear view of every part of the redwood shown in the magazine. Its a very good article anyway. If you are curious, click here and see if I still have the ordering details available for that 2009 issue: Reading Suggestions
The size of Atlas Grove is undisclosed, but for sure it is bigger than a couple of acres. An entensive study was done in the grove called the Atlas Project. Atlas and Iluvatar redwoods were included. The plot was a 1 hectare which is 2.471 acres.
And Iluvatar was also the focus of study. And how do researchers enter the canopy? They used a bow to send rubber tipped arrows over sturdy limb. The arrow pulls a small line, which is used to pull a bit larger line, and that next one to pull the climbing line.
It takes a team to accomplish that kind of work. And what is up there besides redwood foliage? Here is an excerpt from a Humboldt State Univerisity study:
"Five species of vascular epiphytes grow on Iluvatar ...... The evergreen fern Polypodium scouleri is the most numerous species with 36 mats growing on branches or in crotches. Using equations developed by Bailey (2000), we estimated the P. scouleri biomass on Iluvatar to be 18.2 kg with an additional 47.2 kg of associated humus. The second most abundant species is the ericaceious shrub, Vaccinium ovatum. Eight of the shrubs grow from rotting wood or humus on the main trunk above 60 m. Two of the shrubs grow on branches of reiterated trunks. The deciduous fern, Polypodium glycyrrhiza, grows intermixed with P. scouleri on a 15 cm diameter branch. The deciduous tree, Rhamnus purshiana, grows with P. scouleri on a large humus accumulation at the base of trunk II. Finally, the evergreen tree, Umbellularia californica, grows near P. scouleri on a humus-covered burl"
Iluvatar was also one of several redwoods climbed to study the Wandering Salamander, Aneides vagrans. That species was found on Iluvatar and several other redwoods in Atlas Grove. The study results I read were from 2002 and 2003, but this kind of research can repeat itself.
The Giant Salamanders also live in the area, but reside mainly near the forest floor.
The crown is complex and was said to have the only "class 6" reiteration found in a redwood, decribed as:
"Trunk I is the largest known reiterated trunk on a redwood and the most complex region of Iluvatar's crown. It includes the only class 6 reiteration (i.e., a trunk from a trunk from a trunk from a trunk from a trunk from a trunk) known on a redwood"
Part of the conclusion from the study of Iluvatar is worth noting:
"Iluvatar may represent an extreme in the realm of forest ecology. Having developed on rich soils with abundant resources over more than a millennium, its massive reiterated complexes have become fused, and structural failure of the crown now seems nearly impossible"