Copyright 2009 - 2016 by Mario Vaden
The coast redwood Iluvatar is located in Prairie Creek Redwoods State park. It's now evident that Iluvatar was the largest known coast redwood for quite a few years, until 2014 when new discoveries were made. During previous years, quite a few people, plus author Preston, rated Lost Monarch bigger by adding 6,000 cubic feet of an extra stem into the total volume. But Lost Monarch is really two trees pressed tightly together. But not so tightly as to make them one. I added a new photo to my Lost Monarch page showing the gap of space separating the two individual trunks.
Iluvatar is also home to other plants that grow on it, including Cascara Buckthorn, Huckleberry and ferns. It's old enough to have become a garden in the forest.
For reference, some 2009 data had Iluvatar at 3rd largest among 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 almost 220 trunks and stems, filling up to 30,000 cubic yards of space overhead. Robert Van Pelt wrote in Forest Giants of the Pacific Coast that the canopy was the largest occupying over 50,000 cubic yards of space. He also wrote about the natural fusions or grafts of branches, comparing this redwood to the triangular beams of the Eiffel Tower for strength.
In the first image, I am next to the trunk for scale. In the second image, the form of the canopy lurks up behind Andrew Joslin, who illustrated this redwood in Richard Preston's book. Andrew is gazing into Atlas Grove. My albums may have higher resolution for this one.
It is one of many redwoods in what was the Atlas Grove study project. And where is it located? One scientific report I came across described the location as a "alluvial terrace of Prairie Creek" where sedimentation happened centuries ago, but did not pin-point where along the creek's route.
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Other redwoods of the study plot were given 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 best selling book released 2007. In case you are interested see my book review.
Some folks 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.
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.
Dr. Robert Van Pelt wrote that Illuvatar's trunk has almost a triangular footprint where it meets the forest floor. That makes measuring different, even more challenging that round or elliptical trunks.
The size of Atlas Grove is undisclosed, but for sure it is bigger than a couple of acres. The plot was a 1 hectare which is 2.471 acres.
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.
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"
I'm curious to see where future research leads with coast redwoods and reiterations, because we discovered something early 2014 with such a massive crown, it may have similar or greater complexity. Viewing from a distance, the crown seems bigger than Illuvatar. Its a discovery I did not disclose or describe on my "year of discovery" page which was added and updated 2014 and following.