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More Giant Redwoods in UK Than California

Giant redwoods - the world's largest trees - are flourishing in the UK and now even outnumber those found in their native range in California.

Giant redwoods
Giant redwoods | Unsplash

The giants were first brought to the UK about 160 years ago during the Victorian era - and were typically planted on grand estates by the wealthy as a status symbol - and a new study suggests they are growing at a similar rate to their US counterparts.

An estimated 500,000 trees are in the UK compared to 80,000 in California. However they aren't yet as tall. In California they can reach a height of 90m, but in the UK the tallest is just under 55m - and that's because they are, comparative to their Californian counterparts, still very young. Giant redwoods can live for more than 2,000 years, so there's still plenty of time for the UK's trees to catch up.

"Half a million trees is quite a lot to go under the radar until now, but it's when you start looking for them in the landscape, and compiling these datasets, that you realise how many there are," said Dr Phil Wilkes, one of the authors of the study, from Kew's botanic garden at Wakehurst in Sussex.

Giant redwoods are being planted as saplings all over the country, often by local authorities in public parks or recreation grounds. Prof Mat Disney from University College London, says they have a long life ahead of them - and they won't stay small for long. "They're very fast growing, and they grow large. Once they reach about 60m, they will be the tallest trees in Britain, and then they will keep on growing," he said.

Giant redwoods can eventually lock up about 250 tonnes of carbon.


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