“I dig old books.” ™
Welcome to my page of redwood quotes. I’ve been collecting nature quotations since the 1980s, but more recently my compilation of tree quotes has become extra special as I’ve finally rounded up all my excerpts relating to the amazing old-growth giant coastal redwood trees and grouped them together on their own page, along with a few on the giant sequoias. After spending many hours reading, I’ve also found many beautifully-worded writings from the late 1800s and early 1900s, unearthed them from Google Books and they must be long-forgotten because they aren’t quoted anywhere else on the Web. I’m pleased to revive these precious vintage words and share them with a world which fortunately has managed to spare a few areas of the magnificent, irreplaceable, and even more vintage redwood forests.
Their preservation depends upon a sentiment. As sentiment never yet annihilated a paying industry, we cannot hope to stay, wholly, the ax and saw of the lumberman. But popular opinion, combined with action, if directed intelligently towards the setting apart of some one section of the noble redwood forests... will, I believe, save for our present delight and for that of the generations who come after us, at least one grand forest of the Sequoia sempervirens such as the world cannot show elsewhere, such as a thousand years cannot reproduce. ~F.H. Clark, “Forestry; Redwoods,” Annual Report of the State Board of Horticulture of the State of California, for 1891
For 250 million years, redwood kingdoms have crowned the Pacific Coast of North America. ~Kyle Da Silva
After this experience he might be translated mystically to another plane of existence, to another dimension, just as the redwoods seem to be out of time and out of our ordinary thinking. The experience might even drive him mad.... The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time. ~John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley In Search of America, 1962
They carry their own light and shade. The vainest, most slap-happy and irreverent of men, in the presence of redwoods, goes under a spell of wonder and respect.... One feels the need to bow to unquestioned sovereigns. There’s a cathedral hush here. Perhaps the thick soft bark absorbs sound and creates a silence. The trees rise straight up to zenith; there is no horizon.... [T]he green fernlike foliage so far up strains the sunlight to a green gold and distributes it in shafts or rather in stripes of light and shade. To me there’s a remote and cloistered feeling here. One holds back speech for fear of disturbing something—what? ~John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley In Search of America, 1962
[T]hese are the last remaining members of a race that flourished over four continents as far back in geologic time as the upper Jurassic period. Fossils of these ancients have been found dating from the Cretaceous era while in the Eocene and Miocene they were spread over England and Europe and America. And then the glaciers moved down and wiped the Titans out beyond recovery. And only these few are left—a stunning memory of what the world was like once long ago. Can it be that we do not love to be reminded that we are very young and callow in a world that was old when we came into it? ~John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley In Search of America, 1962
The smell of the sea hugged the fog in the redwood trees,
All cool and dank, dimly lit and rank with green,
And in shadowed limbs the Stellar jays jabbered free,
And me, standing silently, an alien in this enchanted scene...
~Michael P. Garofalo, from “The Decaying Tree,” 2012, Meetings with Master Chang San-Feng, egreenway.com
The oldest living things upon the earth are the big trees on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, in California. Since the first white man saw them, about seventy years ago, historians have grown old and died, quarreling as to whether John Bidwell or a hunter named A.T. Dowd was that man, and scientists have wrangled themselves into their graves without finally deciding whether the species should be called Sequoia gigantea or Sequoia Washingtoniana; but some of these trees were five hundred years old when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt — and they are green and growing still. In the struggle for existence, they and man have proved themselves the fittest to survive, but since the two have met, man threatens to extinguish these noblest living ornaments of nature, the most impressive of all monuments to the tenacity of organic life. Some thousands only of these trees now exist as reminders of the age when forests of them were abroad in Europe and America. Most of these few are privately owned; more than half are owned by lumber companies; and saw-mills are nibbling at the edges of the finest groves. ~French Strother, “Saving the Big Trees: The Need of Further National, State, and Private Protection for the Remnants of the Groves that Are Being Cut,” The World’s Work, June 1909
The other great tree of California is the Sequoia sempervirens, or the redwood, as it is invariably called. As the big tree is found only on the western slope of the Coast Range, and it thrives directly in proportion as it gets the ocean fogs from the Pacific. It is not so old a tree, nor so thick, as the gigantea, but it is as tall.... Though less majestic than the big tree, it is more gracefully beautiful.... It makes one of the densest of all forests, almost completely shading the ground, in spite of which it is usually the home of a thick and beautiful undergrowth of ferns and flowering shrubs. Probably no American forest is so picturesque as the redwood. ~French Strother, “Saving the Big Trees: The Need of Further National, State, and Private Protection for the Remnants of the Groves that Are Being Cut,” The World’s Work, June 1909
No nobler monuments of our love for beauty can be erected than to preserve these oldest and biggest trees in the world and these tallest trees in America. ~French Strother, “Saving the Big Trees: The Need of Further National, State, and Private Protection for the Remnants of the Groves that Are Being Cut,” The World’s Work, June 1909
Uncle Sam is not often called a fool in business matters, yet he has sold millions of acres of timber land at two dollars and a half an acre on which a single tree was worth more than a hundred dollars. But this priceless land has been patented, and nothing can be done now about the crazy bargain.... a bad, black business from beginning to end. ~John Muir, “The American Forests,” August 1897
The redwood is one of the few conifers that sprout from the stump and roots, and it declares itself willing to begin immediately to repair the damage of the lumberman and also that of the forest-burner. ~John Muir, “The American Forests,” August 1897
Gigantic second and third growth trees are found in the redwoods, forming magnificent temple-like circles around charred ruins more than a thousand years old. ~John Muir, “The American Forests,” August 1897
[T]he ground beneath them is a garden of fresh, exuberant ferns, lilies, gaultheria, and rhododendron. ~John Muir, “The American Forests,” August 1897
Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away; and if they could, they would still be destroyed, — chased and hunted down as long as fun or a dollar could be got out of their bark hides, branching horns, or magnificent bole backbones.... Through all the wonderful, eventful centuries since Christ’s time — and long before that — God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods; but he cannot save them from fools, — only Uncle Sam can do that. ~John Muir, “The American Forests,” August 1897
Redwoods are like columns, beautiful in color and symmetry, and a redwood forest is a wonder-wood, full of resinous fragrance and with a thousand varied forms of leaf and branch. ~Eloise J. Roorbach, "The Big Basin," Overland Monthly, October 1907
It is more blessed to give to a community than to steal from it. It is better to add to the commonwealth than to take from it. There is no reason why we should turn everything into coin. Fifty years from now this tract of magnificent trees in Muir Park will be more precious than the hanging gardens of Babylon, and more beautiful than anything the genius of man can create. It is even now of immeasurable worth, and every school child and invalid and tired merchant, the rich and the poor, share in its possession. ~George Bancroft Griffith, "William Kent and His Noble Gift," The Epworth Herald, 1908 April 11th
My dad once gave me a few words of wisdom which I’ve always tried to live by. He said, “Son, never throw a punch at a redwood.” ~Magnum, P.I.
A murmuring, fateful, giant voice, out of the earth and sky,
Voice of a mighty dying tree in the Redwood forest dense....
[T]he wood-spirits came from their haunts of a thousand years, to join the refrain;
But in my soul I plainly heard.
Murmuring out of its myriad leaves,
Down from its lofty top, rising two hundred feet high,
Out of its stalwart trunk and limbs—out of its foot-thick bark,
That chant of the seasons and time—chant, not of the past only, but of the future...
~Walt Whitman, from “Song of the Redwood-Tree,” c.1874
Too much cannot be said of the usefulness of this reserve on the side of just beauty—for beauty is useful beyond belief. We need these "beauty reserves" in our lives, our State, our country. Beautiful forms and colors awaken the best that is in us, quiets the worst that is in us. ~Eloise J. Roorbach, "The Big Basin," Overland Monthly, October 1907
Sweet wet balm of bough and branch.... Here is a chestnut sister, and there a sequoia brother. ~Virginia Garland, “The Rain,” Out West: A Magazine of the Old Pacific and the New, February 1908
No other tree combines such massiveness of trunk with such height.... Spruces and pines of majestic port standing around look like saplings.... They look up, but the Sequoias look—not down but out, indifferent to all that is transpiring below them. They see only the limitless reaches of the eternal sky... ~Julia Ellen Rogers, “The Big Tree and the Redwood,” The Tree Book: A Popular Guide to a Knowledge of the Trees of North America and to their Uses and Cultivation, 1905
It is impossible to get satisfactory pictures of these trees, for one cannot get an uninterrupted view of them. We can get at the stocky, swelling base, and part of the noble shaft, or a good view of the crown of leaves swaying above all else. They defy camera or artist, who desire full length portraits. ~Eloise J. Roorbach, "The Big Basin," Overland Monthly, October 1907
...mystery and charm unique among living works of creation... ~Author unknown [This was reportedly said to Grant, Osborn, and Merriam, describing the northern California redwoods that prompted their 1917 “historic camping trip” leading to preservation of some remaining old-growth forest areas. Go tree-huggers!
There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Three Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred. ~Theodore Roosevelt
The road is broad, for a wood-road, and it first lays itself over a slight knoll, from which the valley shrinks into a picture.... It is green and soft gold; gently blurred, huddling alders by the river; straight, severe pines and redwoods on the ridges.
Then the road takes the steepest slope, and the trees begin to stand in front of the valley-picture, and to step down about you. The Mesquite Field ridge absorbs all your energies. There are black stumps of trees, fallen sooty trunks around which the gracious fern has grouped its friendly brethren. But higher on the ridge are trees yet untouched, rising in their proud, silent way.
The ocean is marking the line of its domain far off in a creamy blur. To it falls a long sea-slope, fortified rearward by ridge after ridge, pressing on with bayonets of pine and redwood.... It is fine and airy up here, above the sea, and yet within high reach of its steady thunder, borne up on a breeze sent landward. ~Margaret Troili, “Woods of Mendocino,” Out West: A Magazine of the Old Pacific and the New, June 1908
The sky is lilac, the sky is rose;
Fainter and fainter the redwood glows...
The dove is calling,
The dusk is falling...
~John Vance Cheney, "Sunset in the Redwoods," 1902
What a generous wood! what a glorious and all-seeing Providence, to provide so liberally for the inhabitants of the Sunset Land! ~W.A. Pryal, “Lumber for Hives: Some Interesting Data on the Way Lumber is being Cut and Exported from this Country; the Giant Trees; California Redwood,” Gleanings in Bee Culture, 1904 August 1st
There may be “sermons in stones and music in running brooks,” but grand indeed is the inspiration to be had as we stand in awe and view the majestic trees of California.... The vastness of these forests can not be realized until one has been within the silent and cathedral-like expanse they form. ~W.A. Pryal, “Lumber for Hives: Some Interesting Data on the Way Lumber is being Cut and Exported from this Country; the Giant Trees; California Redwood,” Gleanings in Bee Culture, 1904 August 1st [quoting Shakespeare
It was the sire, his hearty welcome said,
Hymning his Redwoods heaven as on he led.
~John Vance Cheney, "A Redwoods Idyll," 1893
The Sequoias stand listening, watching, searching the sky, looking far off, over the hills, up and down the coast.... In this wild night the redwoods are slipping off their last burned shreds of autumn color, throwing dead branch and needled leaf to the wind; down every bough venturing forth tips of tender green, dreaming in the throbbing dark of a million, minute, kernel blooms.... The wild wet trees stretch out their arms to me. ~Virginia Garland, “The Rain,” Out West: A Magazine of the Old Pacific and the New, February 1908
California’s redwood forests are famous for being home to the tallest living things on the planet, but there’s much more to these extraordinary woodlands than the size of the trees. At their best, redwood forests are suffused with a sense of openness and serenity. Sun-dappled, elegantly fluted tree trunks shoot straight as an arrow into the sky, while below are burbling streams, spectacular fallen trunks, and a lush accumulation of ferns, sorrel, moss, and lichen. ~David Baselt, redwoodhikes.com
The most beautiful antiques are not found in stores. ~WishHunt.com
To whoever invented fantasy, redwood trees, and apple pie for breakfast: well done. ~Dr. SunWolf, professorsunwolf.com
A redwood tree sighs, tall, broad, contented. But the aspen tree has itchy feet—as winds blow, it bends, yearning to be a traveling man. ~Dr. SunWolf, professorsunwolf.com
The scent of rain, as an ancient redwood tree points to the first evening star. ~Dr. SunWolf, professorsunwolf.com
Easy places in which to lose your mind: bakeries, bookstores, redwood forests, wild gardens. ~Dr. SunWolf, professorsunwolf.com
Through the branches of a giant redwood tree already two thousand years old floats a magnificent butterfly, whose life is only two weeks. ~Dr. SunWolf, professorsunwolf.com
Indigo shadows encourage tantalizing gossip in an orchard, while a tall redwood throws poems on the forest floor. The nightlife of trees. ~Dr. SunWolf, professorsunwolf.com
He stood in stillness in an ancient grove of redwood trees, waiting for a wandering poem to land on him. ~Dr. SunWolf, professorsunwolf.com
There’s a beach whose waves lap near an ancient grove of redwoods—during a full moon, it throws up wishing shells. Let them lie, he told me. ~Dr. SunWolf, professorsunwolf.com
Distinct from all others, the sequoias are a race apart. The big tree and the redwood of the Coast Range are the only surviving members of that ancient family, the giants of the foreworld. Their immense trunks might be the fluted columns of some noble order of architecture, surviving its builders like the marble temples of Greece,—columns three hundred feet high and thirty feet through at the base. Such a vast nave, such majestic aisles, such sublime spires, only the forest cathedrals know. Symmetrical silver firs, giant cedars and spruce grow side by side with sugar-pines of vast and irregular outline, whose huge branches, like outstretched arms, hold aloft the splendid cones—such is the ancient world.
It is doubtful if these giant conifers are really as companionable as our eastern beeches and maples and oaks. The company is almost too grandiose; their dignity is overpowering. ~Stanton Davis Kirkham, "The Forest," In The Open, 1908
[W]hat have we done with our forests? Chopped them, and burned them, and wasted them; and now almost the last of the great stands of timber are here on the Pacific slope. We are in the center of the best of them. Probably nowhere on earth does there exist a forest to compare in continuous grandeur and unqualified beauty with the Redwoods that are found along the Eel River and to the north. ~Madison Grant, “Preserve An America Worth Fighting For,” 1921 August 6th address at the dedication of Bolling Memorial Grove in Humboldt County, California
It was the brink of night, and everywhere
Tall redwoods spread their filmy tops in air;
Huge trunks, like shadows upon shadow cast,
Pillared the under twilight, vague and vast.
~Edwin Markham, "A Mendocino Memory," 1901
The Park's genial forests of white and red firs, incense cedars, sugar, yellow and lodgepole pines, spreading up to altitudes of eight and nine thousand feet, with graceful mountain hemlocks and indomitable white-bark pines ranging the alpine levels beyond, thrill every lover of splendid trees. But these are overshadowed by its groves of Giant Sequoias, the marvel of the botanical world,—immemorial trees.... a playground fashioned for giants. ~John H. Williams, "The Yosemite National Park," Yosemite and Its High Sierra, 1921
Death is a low chemical trick played on everybody except sequoia trees. ~J.J. Furnas
Do behold the king in his glory, King Sequoia. Behold! Behold! seems all I can say.... Well may I fast, not from bread but from business, bookmaking, duty doing & other trifles.... I’m in the woods woods woods, & they are in mee-ee-ee.... I wish I were wilder & so bless Sequoia I will be. ~John Muir, from a letter to Jeanne C. Carr, circa autumn 1870, © 1984 Muir-Hanna Trust, University of the Pacific Library Holt-Atherton Special Collections
You are yourself a Sequoia.... Stop and get acquainted with your big brethren. ~John Muir to Ralph Waldo Emerson, May 1871
He is likely to remain the one historian of the Sierra; he imported into his view the imagination of the poet and the reverence of the worshipper.... William Kent, during Muir’s life, paid him a rare tribute in giving to the nation a park of redwoods with the understanding that it should be named Muir Woods. But the nation owes him more. His work was not sectional but for the whole people, for he was the real father of the forest reservations of America. ~Robert Underwood Johnson, about John Muir