As we walked through the Redwood Forest in Northern California, we were awed by the beauty, the grandeur of these magnificent trees that average 240 feet in height. I grew up in Southern California but rarely did my parents have opportunity to go that far north. Eight hundred miles was a long way in the 1950s, and I saw the Redwoods only one time in my childhood.
But this was 2018, Carol & I were on our year-long jaunt around the US of A, and childhood memories came flooding through the canals of my mind. On November 14 we visited the Humboldt Redwoods State Park, and on December 8, we visited the Calaveras Big Trees State Park – in the snow, of course – with our son, Ron, and his family.
There are basically two divisions of giant Redwoods: Giant Sequoias (sequoiadendron gigantem) are found in the California Sierra Nevada Mountains, and Coastal Redwoods (sequoia sempervirens) grow near the Northern California coast.
Some Giant Sequoias grow 300 feet tall, have a diameter up to 35 feet (that’s almost 110 feet in circumference!), have a root system which can cover several acres, and be more than 3,000 years old. For history buffs: a tree that old sprouted about 100 years after Charlemagne died, the timeframe when Eric the Red (Viking) established the first colony in Greenland, and the beginning of the Mayan Post-Classical period. The Coastal Redwoods can grow 370 feet tall – the tallest trees in the world – with trunks up to about 30 feet in diameter (95 feet in circumference).
Loggers had cut about 90% of these colossal trees for housing, furniture, etc.; but various conservation groups appealed to Congress to preserve the Redwoods, and the state and national park systems succeeded in rescuing the remaining 10%.
As Carol and I walked among the trees, we saw a number of them that looked as though two or three had been planted together. Standing very close together with 8-foot diameter trunks, it looked as though someone had poured liquid bark on the trees ten feet off the ground which solidified, connecting the trees. Looking at this photo carefully, you can see where the bark has joined the two trees.
Yes, they had grown up together – the seeds having landed about ten feet apart. As seedlings, ten feet is a long distance. But as they grew and their trunks began touching, a phenomenon called inosculation took place. This funny word means to connect or join; to become one or make continuous; to unite.
As each of them grew in width at about an inch per year, they began touching in 120 years. As the trunks or branches rubbed together and wore off the bark, the live fibrous tissues touched each other and began intertwining. They didn’t get infected, and the trees became one plant, sharing nutrients and water.
Depending on how close trees are, either the bark joins and becomes one covering around both trees, or the tree trunks themselves physically join and become one tree. The trees that fuse together like that are called Hugging Trees. And together, they are stronger than individual trees.
Trees and bushes are not the only organisms that experience inosculation. This interesting phenomenon takes place when a person receives a skin graft. Through inosculation, the blood vessels and skin tissues connect, intertwine, and become one.
As I stood in the Humboldt Redwoods State Park gazing at these two magnificent works of God that had become one, I began thinking about my relationship with Carol.
We were born in different states. Eighteen years later we met in Southern California in college. Both of us lived on campus, and – attracted to each other – we saw each other in classes, during meals in the cafeteria, and in the choir.
Married August 22, 1966, we began growing together – yes, including rubbing each other the wrong way sometimes. But we didn’t allow the irritations, the inconveniences, the frustrations, and occasional anger to infect us as we wore off the rough edges; and over the years we became one in many ways.
We share the same house, the same joys, the same children, the same grandchildren, the same church, the same God. We have the same basic goals in life. We even react in much the same way, and at times spontaneously come up with the same ideas. We’ve grown strong together.
Two trees…two lives. It’s amazing how two individuals can develop a strong marriage if they stay together, weather the storms of life, and learn to truly love each other.