Growing Great Canopy Trees


Issue #1

May 1995

If you are wondering what this section is about, this is where we hope to deliver the goods. Rather than just talk about reforesting the world, we are doing something about it, and we want all of you to get involved. The trees listed below are trees that we are already growing in our EcoWorld greenhouse and tree nursery. Our goal here at EcoWorld is to become experts in growing all of the giant trees of the earth, and we have to start somewhere, so we are starting with the giant trees that do well in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, which is where we are located.

But it isn’t going to end here. Eventually we want to understand how to grow every giant tree on earth, the “Flagships of the Forest.” We want to know what the big canopy trees are the world over, where they are, how they grow, who grows them, who cuts them, what they are good for, where else they will do well, and how we can grow more of them and help other people to grow them.

We here at EcoWorld intend to create a database on this web site that will be accessable to anyone who wishes to know more about the big canopy creating trees. Eventually we hope to establish EcoWorld greenhouses and nurseries elsewhere in the world, and promote reforestation that creates value for the peoples living in the reforested regions, helps the earth’s climate, and takes pressure off of stands of ancient forests.

If you have information to share on the great canopy trees of the world, or if you want to become part of our world-wide network of EcoWorld greenhouses, contact me at Hopefully we can publish your information and report on the contributions that your greenhouse is making either to the natural forests or the urban forests of this small planet.


California Coast Redwood
(Sequoia Semperviron)
can live to be over 2,000 years of age. It is also the tallest of all known trees, with the largest over 365 feet in height. Moreover it is the official tree of EcoWorld, hence the special treatment here in the first ever “Flagships of the Forest” article. The coast redwood can get up to 30 feet in diameter, and is known for its beautiful red, shaggy hairy bark, on the largest trees almost more like hair than bark. In addition to being long lived, California Coast Redwoods, along with their cousins, the Sierra Redwoods, are among the oldest species on earth. Their origins go back to a prehistoric time when most species they shared the earth with then are long extinct.

California Coast Redwoods are hardy, and will grow to heights of 150 – 200 feet even in mediteranean climates where the rainfall can be as little as 15 – 20 inches. They cannot live in summers where more than 30 days are over 100 degrees, or in winters where over 30 nights drop below freezing. Their ideal environment is the humid temperate rainforests on the southern portion of the pacific northwest, never more than around 30 miles in from the pacific ocean. Redwoods love the mist, and it is almost impossible to overwater them.

In the moist bottomlands along the coastal rivers of northern california, and up mist capturing canyons working inward, a young redwood can grow 10 feet per year and more, reaching 250 – 300 feet within 100 years or less. In many climate zones, even in an urban setting, if well watered and planted in proper soil, a redwood can grow over 100 feet in 25 – 35 years.

Needless to say, EcoWorld is growing Redwoods, lots of them. At our nursery in San Jose, California, we are experimenting not only with Redwoods, but other large canopy producing flagship trees that do well in the mediterranean climate: Big Pine trees that can reach 100 feet or more are our current specialty.

Douglas Fir, (Pseudotsuga Menziesii) is another mediteranean flagship tree that is quick to germinate and does just fine if the rainfall exceeds around 30 inches per year. It is common in the cooler canyons and hillsides of the Santa Cruz Mountains, west of San Jose, Califorina, for stands of Douglas Fir to grow 200 feet or higher.

Monterey Pines (Pinus Radiata) we can produce like weeds, and these drought tolerant, hardy pines can get over 120 feet in height, and often need only 20 years to grow to maturity. A Monterey Pine seed planted in February will be around a 3 inch seedling within a month of planting. That same seedling at an age of one year and one month will be about 18 inches tall, and after 2 years, one month, in a 15 gallon container this tree will be 4 feet tall. And the spring growth spurt doesn’t really get going until April or May. If you are just starting out and want to try to start some big trees from seed that will be a sure success, get some Monterey Pine seeds. You will have to live somewhere where it freezes less than 30 nights per year, have 15 – 45 inches of rain per year, and the days in the summer on average are in the 70 – 90 range. The mature Monterey Pine is a handsome tree, with dark green needles and dark brown bark. They don’t always have that classic inverted pyramid shape, but often instead have irregular branches and broad crowns.

Jeffrey Pines (Pinus Jeffrey) are also extremely easy to germinate. These trees are closely related to that great 200 foot giant, the Ponderosa Pine, but Jeffrey Pines prefer the hotter drier areas where the winter freeze is mild. Like the Ponderosa, the Jeffrey Pine stands tall and straight, with a classic towering pine shape. The bark is plated like the Ponderosa, and is light brown. The needles are long, up to 12 inches, and are light green with a bluish tinge. Jeffrey Pines are also fast growers, and in ideal conditions can get well over 100 feet in height.

Coulter Pines (Pinus Colteri) round out the Pine line. They are not as tall, getting at best up to 80 feet, but they have a huge girth, with big side branches. Their pine cones, over 18 inches long, are the biggest pinecones of any tree in the world. If you would like to grow these trees or would like more information about them, or any of the others in mentioned here, email me at

Pines and other conifers are not the only trees that build canopy in the mediteranean forest. EcoWorld is in the process of adding some deciduous flagships; trees that excel in mediteranean climate regions of the world.

Fremont Cottonwood (Populus Fremontii) is a huge softwood canopy tree that is almost as broad as it is tall and can get over 80 feet in height. It is found naturally along streamsides in hot valley areas. It is a drought tolerant, hardy tree that is a good choice for ecosystem restoration projects in urban areas. Many urban foresters avoid planting the female Cottonwoods if planting near homes, since they shed large amounts of cotton in the spring which clog screens and air intakes.

Valley Oak (Quercus Lobata), which can reach a height and width of well over 100 feet. A mature Valley Oak is a tree of stunning beauty, with plated, mottled brown bark, a crown girth often exceeding the tree’s height, and side branches giving way to side branches at 90 degree angles making perfectly efficient randomly designed supports to a geodesic dome of leaves. This tree grows rapidly from seed and is an excellent choice for a novice reforester. In proper well drained soil a Valley Oak can grow surprisingly fast.

Western Sycamore(Platanus Racemosa) to round out the three, is an awesome variety of Sycamore, growing up to 100 feet high in under 50 years. It has huge side branches with lots of open space beneath the canopy, and can span a width equal to the height it reaches. It has silvery white bark and in the spring the film of green leaflets gives it a crown of surpassing beauty.


EcoWorld is investigating three other climate zones at present. Any information you wish to contribute will further our efforts and could be published in EcoWorld to help others also benefit:

Central American Rainforests

The rainforests and cloudforests of Central America is the first place. We would like to determine what it would cost to establish a nursery for large native flagship trees. If, for example, the dairy farmers in the mountains west of San Jose, Costa Rica, can obtain seedlings of some of these huge trees to use for their windbreaks, it will take logging pressures off of the virgin rainforest that still exists around the higher and more remote peaks. What are the giant canopy trees of the Central American Rainforests and Cloudforests? We hope to compile and present the information here at EcoWorld, so it will be easier for people to get started growing these trees.

Forests of the Pacific Northwest

The pacific northwest of North America, where the giant Sitka Spruces, the Western Red Cedar grow to heights well over 200 feet, and the Douglas Firs top 300 feet. Some of the most awe-inspiring cathedrals of tree canopy on earth. Learning how to grow the flagship trees of this cold temperate rainforest climate zone is a high priority. We hope to present information regarding what giant trees are native to this region and how and where to grow them will be presented in subsequent editions of EcoWorld.

Forests of Chile
The western slopes of the Andes somewhere between Santiago and Tierra Del Fuego are home to one of the most majestic of all trees, the Patagonian Cypress, or the Alerce (pronounced a-ler-say). The tree is also known by the latin name of Fitzroya Cupressoides. These severly endangered trees are slow growers, but live longer than anything else on earth, over 4000 years. They are giants, growing well over 200 feet in maturity, with trunk diameters over 30 feet at the base. The Alerce looks a lot like a Sierra Redwood (Sequoiadendron Giganteum), with nothing but massive trunk until a third to a half way up the tree, where huge knarly branches poke out with foliage at last. The bark of the Alerce is smooth and white, giving the tree an uncommonly striking appearance. EcoWorld has contracted with the representative of a gatherer who is in Chile right now obtaining Alerce seeds. This marvelous species of trees needs new homes, as well as greater protection in their own country. If you want to get some Alerce seeds, or if you have information on where Alerces grow or could grow, or any reports on how the threatened stands of ancient Alerces are doing, please let me know at

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