Avenue of the Dwarfs
Imagine hiking up a steep trail, zigzagging along the switch-backs, until you finally ascend to the top of a ridge. As you stand there, you begin to look around, enjoying the distant views and surroundings, until your eyes come to rest on a stand of bean-pole trees behind you. Upon closer inspection, you notice that these trees have the familiar collection of feather-shaped shade needles and spiny sun needles of the coast redwood, but they are lime-green.
This closely packed stand of thousands of trees average about 4 to 5 inches in diameter and are stunted in height. They currently range to about 25 feet tall. The bark of these trees, while gray in color, otherwise closely resembles - in miniature - the bark of the coast redwoods (Sequoia Sempervirens) and is spongy to the touch.
What you have found is Quail Hollow Ranch’s very healthy-looking dwarf redwood grove, or pygmy redwood forest, along the upper end of the ‘Sunset Trail’, which could be referred to as ‘The Avenue of the Dwarfs’, in this very sandy Ben Lomond Mountain Range.
What you see here is what happens when a towering coast redwood is allowed to grow in impoverished hardpan soils, near 1,000 feet elevation, with no source of water other than winter rains and sporadic light summer fog. This causes stunted growth and altered color. The shallow root system of the redwoods are an advantage in these superficial soils. However, when soils are limited, they result in stunted tree growth.
In your typical pygmy forest, trees can grow centuries old, yet remain a mere ten feet tall. Stunted growth may be caused by extreme ph levels, poor drainage, low oxygen levels, or poor nutrient levels. In this stand, the trees may be fairly young, and with time they may acquire a gnarled appearance yet maintain their small stature. Little is known of this dwarf redwood stand, but with time, as the trees mature and more study provides additional information, we may come to discover the hidden secrets of this unique habitat.