I recently had the chance to visit "Redwood Forest" near Warburton, just outside of Melbourne. The Redwood Tree Forest is reminiscent of where these giants originate in Redwood, California.The towering trees (about 1500 in total), measuring up to 55metres tall dwarf anything in sight and make for spectacular scenes for anyone who has visited.
Californian Redwoods are some of the largest and tallest growing trees in the world. In Australia, they are found growing in similar climates alongside the Australian Native and tallest growing flowering tree in the world: the Australian Mountain Ash.
They house a deep rich red colour in their heartwood and lighter pale sapwood. They are known for growth in numbers, and their sheer size, volume, and the proximity of growth of such large trees leaves anyone in view in awe. Their wood is used commercially for a multitude of projects including; sleepers, fencing posts, bridge timbers, outdoor furniture, and window frames. The natural durability of the timber makes it a fine alternative to treated pine.
Standing beneath these tall beauties on a bed of old pine needles, it is baffling to find their root system is quite shallow in comparison. From the 55-metre leaf loft above ground, only about 6ft down. 55 metres plus up, and not even 2 metres down! With such a vast number of trees in close propinquity together it's intriguing as to how their root system is developed.
When Redwoods grow, they grow 'together'. Their root systems are intertwined, leaving the trees to rely on one another as they grow and especially during high winds and storms. They can't do life without one another, and neither should we.
"Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ's body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other."- Romans Chapter 12 Verses 4-5
The Bible is full of examples of believers coming together and providing strength together. I believe the trees have a few things to teach us.
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There are different theories on trees growing together, and as our scientific understanding of our world grows, so too will our view on it. One researched theory is the concept that trees are interconnected underground, and through their network of roots share resources.
Suzanne Simard is a research scientist in this area and has unlocked several findings of what happens in forests underground by tracking radioisotopes and different frequencies used by plant systems.
Trees in a growth area look out for the young, providing them with extra nutrients. Especially if the canopy of established trees blocks sunlight for photosynthesis and growth to occur, and help bolster new young shoots. They help fend off diseases within one another, sending different elements of nutrients to certain trees when in need. All in all, the trees are connected as we should be!
In the Bible, we are encouraged to strengthen one another up in faith, spur one another on, and be supportive of Christian brothers and sisters as a family of believers (1 Thessalonians Chapter 5 Verse 11, Ephesians Chapter 4 Verse 3, Hebrews Chapter 10 Verse 24).
Redwood trees' root systems are dense and fibrous. Knitting together under the forest floor these root systems change the underground composition, even being used by farmers to stop tunnel erosion in the soil. Redwoods are known to grow slowly at first whilst the root system is established, this may take up to 6 years! But once established, they are relatively fast-growing for their height.
In the Christian perspective, this reminds me how important it is to establish our root systems well in Christ. Even if this establishment takes a while, the reward is worthwhile as stronger root systems lead to stronger trees. Ezra Chapter 7 Verse 10 gives us a good example:
"The gracious hand of his God was on him (Ezra). This was because Ezra had determined to study and obey the Law of the Lord and to teach those decrees and regulations to the people of Israel."
He was a Leader amongst Israel because of his dedication to studying the word of God, then living it out through practice and teaching the Israelites. As mentioned above, we can help one another in this growth phase. Those who are established should be feeding the new young shoots with enquiring minds and questioning hearts, they should be sending different resources from different areas as needed. Once established the trees grow quickly.
The lessons these trees teach us to continue, but I think the biggest lesson from these giants is the lesson of Unity. There is a blessing in unity, we need to rely on one another, and in growing together will be able to support one another.
"How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!" Psalm Chapter 133 Verse 1
Next time you see a marvellous canopy of trees, I ask you to look beneath your feet and wonder at the root system beneath, then look around for the root system surrounding you. Who can you support and who is supporting you?