The Coast Redwood belongs to the plant family Taxodiaceae, which also included fourteen other species. Members of the Taxodiaceae family are conifers that generally have soft wood, long, straight trunks, round cones, and narrow, needle-like leaves. The Giant Sequoia (right) and the Dawn Redwood (far left) are the most closely related to the Coast Redwood.
Over forty species of Taxodiaceae once thrived in a warmer, wetter climate than the one that prevails today. Now there are fifteen "relic" species remaining, mostly around the Pacific Rim (see map). Many have been given misleading common names - fir, cedar, pine - because of their similarity to these other conifer families.
Some of these trees are now quite rare, and may become even more so. Climate change, which was a significant factor in the reduction of the area where redwood can grow, is a continual process. It is probable that today human activity plays a role in the current rapid progress of global warming. Scientists estimate that a three to four degree increase in global temperatures could eliminate the cool, moist coastal zone in California. What, then, might the future hold for Coast Redwoods?