Redwood ‘Ghosts’ May Hold Clues to Ecosystem Health

Author: Marina Wang (Atlas Obscura)
Source: Visit Site
Redwood ‘Ghosts’ May Hold Clues to Ecosystem Health

Thirty miles north of San Francisco, Tom Stapleton sets out on a trail that takes him deep into the forest, weaving around the massive trunks of redwoods. The trees have special significance for him. “Being in a redwood forest is actually like being in a cathedral,” he says. “There’s something that’s very spiritual, very humbling and moving there. It makes you seem so insignificant because you’re this human being that’s a tiny speck compared to these towering trees.” He veers off the trail, consulting a secret map that will lead him to the “ghosts of the forest.”

For decades, Stapleton has searched for and logged rare albino redwoods, their silver-white branches a stark contrast to the dark wood of the surrounding forest, and even less common wild chimera redwoods, which sport patchworks of green and white needle leaves. Collaborating with albino redwood researchers and enthusiasts, he has found more than 500 albino redwoods and 116 wild chimeras. Their locations are kept secret to protect them from souvenir hunters or other vandals. Although curiosity and wonder drove his initial interest, Stapleton is now working with researchers to understand why these unusual trees exist, and what their presence may mean for the health of surrounding trees and even entire ecosystems.

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