Returning Redwoods to the Presidio

Friday, Sep 25, 2020 Category Nature and Science; Park Management

Our forestry team makes sure the Presidio’s trees thrive by replacing aging groves with healthy young trees. They have a comprehensive reforestation program that includes experimenting with clones of ancient California redwood trees.

Fieldbrook stump in 1896
The Fieldbrook stump, 35 feet in diameter, cut in 1896.

In December 2018, staff and volunteers from the Presidio Trust teamed up with the Archangel Ancient Tree Archive to ensure some very special ancient redwood clones would have a new life in the park. Archangel donated and helped plant 75 redwood saplings cloned from ancient redwoods from the California coast – including the Barrett stump and the Fieldbrook Stump (pictured), ancient redwood trees born over 3,000 years ago – right here in the Presidio.

Presidio Forestry's Alex Roberts and Stephen Duffy in Thomas Grove
Presidio Forestry’s Alex Roberts and Stephen Duffy with an Aptos Blue redwood in Thomas Grove.

Redwoods like these are part of a comprehensive reforestation plan in the park – redwoods not only provide benefits to the ecosystem, like sequestering carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen into the environment, but they also provide habitat for park wildlife and make the Presidio a beautiful place for all to enjoy.

Presidio's Marion Anthonisen planting at Thomas Grove
The Presidio’s Marion Anthonisen helps to lead volunteers planting redwood saplings at Thomas Grove on Planting Day 2018.

Several redwood reforestation projects are currently underway in the park – the most recent took place at Thomas Grove, a spot adjacent to the older Arguello Grove (planted in 2011).

Thomas Grove before and after
Before: The planting site at Thomas Grove in December 2018. After: Native plants now fill out the understory and the redwoods thrive 21 months later at Thomas Grove.

So far, the Presidio’s crew has planted an understory (or groundcover) that includes coyote brush (Baccharis pilularis), Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), oaks, Blue wildrye (Elymus glaucus), flowering current, California buckeye (Aesculus californica) and more at Thomas Grove.

Presidio Forester Blake Troxel by Charity Vargas
Presidio Forester Blake Troxel

Success at Thomas Grove comes from considering the site holistically. “In order to make sure these redwoods thrive, it was important to cultivate a native plant understory early in the project,” Presidio Trust Forester Blake Troxel shared. “The understory suppresses weeds, and the more aggressive non-natives plants, and creates a healthy ecosystem where the trees can grow.”

Ecology Trail in the Presidio
Redwoods along the Ecology Trail.

While public access to the grove isn’t currently possible, in the years to come the Presidio’s team plans to expand the grove north of Washington Street along the Bay Area Ridge Trail, eventually adding an additional trail spur through the grove. To visit Presidio redwoods now, enjoy the Ecology Trail and the small Wayburn Grove overlooking Thompson Reach across from the Presidio Community YMCA.