Pacific Pup: The California Coast According to Annette

Height Club

Imagine two million acres of untouched ancient redwood forest, creating a three-hundred-foot-high wall along Northern California’s jagged coastline. If you lived here five hundred years ago, this wonderland would remain waiting to be explored. Today only a fraction of this magnificent forest exists; yet the sight of even one tree with a trunk wide enough to drive your truck through is enough to evoke a sense of awe in anyone (at least I hope so!). California’s coastal trees are vital to beach ecosystems, and in some cases create their own.

Achieving a life span of over two thousand years, Coast Redwoods are some of the most massive trees in the world. They tower at heights of over three hundred and fifty feet with base diameters up to twenty-five feet wide; that’s taller than a thirty-story building!  Recent discoveries show that over time, these giants develop “crowns” where saplings and other plants germinate on existing branches high in the canopy. Some plants and animals spend their entire lives three hundred feet above the forest floor!
Endemic to a small region of the coast, Monterey Pines were important in Native California life and are the most widely cultivated pine in the world. The seeds of the cones (“pine nuts”) are edible and high in protein, while the needles, high in vitamin C, were once brewed as a tea for headaches. Pine sap was chewed as gum or used as a sealant, and the roots were used to make fish traps and baskets.
Planted as a hardy tree to prevent erosion in Golden Gate Park, the Monterey Cyprus, with its beautiful interwoven patterns, is shaped by heavy coastal winds. To me, cypress trees are symbols of strength and determination: they thrive in harsh conditions in areas where nutrients are scarce. Truly inspirational!  One Monterey Cypress has achieved international fame: “The Lone Cypress” resides at Point Lobos Natural Reserve, near Carmel (absolutely worth a visit).
Admittedly, trees are not the first thing that come to mind when thinking about a beach picnic, yet I always feel a sense of wonder when I take time to observe them. Is there a plant that catches you off guard, maybe one you see often and forget how awe-inspiring it is? California trees are the heart of some amazing artwork that I hope you enjoy as much as I do. Check out these artists’ creations inspired by our coastal giants: Amadeo Bachar, Angela Mele, Kay Harden, Ralphie Hendrix, and Kathy O’Leary.
See you at the beach!
Annette Filice (Scientific Illustrator Intern)
Sketch Notes:
Coast Redwood (Sequoia semperirens): Some of the largest trees in the world, California’s Coast Redwoods reach heights of over 350′ tall and 25′ wide at the base. Entire ecosystems exist in the canopy of these giants.
Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa): Monterey Cypress Trees are extremely hardy, thriving in harsh winds in areas where nutrients are scarce. What an inspiration! The internationally famous “Lone Cypress” resides in Point Lobos Natural Reserve.
Monterey Pine (Pinus radiata): Monterey Pines were important in Native California life. The seeds were eaten, the needles were brewed as tea to cure headaches, and the roots were used to weave baskets and fishnets.


  1. An English friend of mine thought it was really American and weird that we have a tree you can drive through. I think she’s just jealous of how big our trees can grow.

  2. Cyrus Emerson says

    Our dog loves chewing pine cones and eating the pine nuts.