Redwood Tree Symbolism and Meanings

 8 min read

The closely related redwoods and sequoias of California have a tragic history: while Native Americans only utilized wood from trees that had fallen naturally, Europeans destroyed the forests for all sorts of architectural purposes.

The sequoia tree is not only the tallest but also the largest and most massive tree on earth. To put it into perspective, they’re as tall as skyscrapers! And these behemoths can live for thousands of years. When you stand next to one of these trees, you feel incredibly small and insignificant compared to its infinite grandeur.

Besides being the largest trees in the world they also bear significant symbolism. Redwood trees have a long and storied history, and their symbolism is just as varied as their uses.

For many cultures, the redwood tree is seen as a symbol of protection, balance, and healing. The redwood is often called the “Tree of Life” due to its ability to live for thousands of years. The redwood tree is also seen as a symbol of our connection to the world above and below us. It is said that the redwood tree can help us to connect with our ancestors and our future selves.

Whether you see the redwood tree as a symbol of strength or as a reminder of our connection to the natural world, there is no doubt that this majestic tree has a powerful presence.

Symbolism:Balance, protection, healing, longevity, connection with our past, present and future
Divine Associations:Heaven and Earth
Astrological Association:Jupiter
Historical Spotlight:Archibald Menzies discovered the coastal redwood in 1794 and found that it was a new botanical species. He introduced them to Europe in 1840 when he brought some specimens to St Petersburg, Russia. Three years later, they were also brought to England.

About Redwood Trees

Redwood tree trunks
Redwood tree trunks

Sequoia is the only living genus in its family and was named after Sequoyah (1770–1843). He was the son of a Tsalagi (Cherokee) chief’s daughter and a white fur trader. He lived primarily in Georgia in the eastern United States where he invented the Cherokee alphabet. Now, redwoods are all that remain of a worldwide forest that flourished during periods such as the Cretaceous period(circa 144–66 million years ago).

The Californian redwood also called the coastal redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), is a gigantic evergreen that can grow over 330 feet (100 meters) tall. Some coastal redwoods have been alive for over 2,000 years and the oldest one that we know of was 2,200 years old before it fell in 1934.

Coastal redwoods have impressively large trunks that are protected by a thick outer bark. This outer bark is reddish-brown, soft, and spongy. Additionally, the branches on these trees droop slightly and appear similar to yew leaves. There are two types of leaves borne from different parts of the tree- terminal and fertile shoots contain scale-like leaves while other linear, needle-like leaves can be found on other branches.

The female cones are either globular or egg-shaped, with 15 to 20 woody scales and each scale bears 3 to 7 ovules. In the wild, coastal redwoods grow along the coast of the United States from southern Oregon down to central California.

Both the giant redwood and similar-looking sequoia are classified as different trees. The main distinction between them is that redwoods leaves are ovate or lanceolate while ellipsoid female cones consisting of 30 to 40 hard, woody scales take two years to mature on Sequoias. Both tree species are native only to California’s western Sierra Nevada slopes.

The giant redwood, when young, has a conical shape. When older, though, it has widely spaced branches that are down-swept. Even though its name would suggest otherwise, it never grows quite as tall as the coastal redwood but is much larger in girth.

The “General Sherman” tree is a renowned giant sequoia with a height of 311 feet (95 meters). With a diameter at its base of 25 feet (17.6 meters), it weighs an estimated 1,200 tonnes, making it a strong contender for the title of the world’s largest living thing. At approximately 2,700 years old, it is also one of the oldest trees in existence. The greatest reported age for any giant sequoia though is 4,000 years old.

Practical Uses

In the past, indigenous peoples only utilized timber that had naturally fallen. The Mendocino, Yurok and Tolowa tribes hollowed out tree trunks to make canoes using fire as well as simple tools made from horns and stone.

When Europeans arrived with access to saws, axes and dynamite though, it then only took these three people a week at most to bring down one giant redwood.

Consequently, this is how many of the boomtowns seen during the 19th century Gold Rush were built over time. However, now in present-day environmentalists are fighting for what little remains of the redwood forest since chainsaws and heavy machinery are used for clear-felling purposes.

Natural Healing

North Americans have used redwood for healing purposes for centuries. For example, the Pomo and Kashaya tribes would make poultices out of heated new redwood foliage to relieve earaches.

They would also drink a mixture of water and gummy sap as a stimulant and tonic. The Houma drank inner bark infusions to treat jaundice and purify their blood.

Folklore, Myth and Symbol of the Redwood Tree

folklore myth symbol redwood tree
Tall redwood trees

The original lore of the redwoods has disappeared with the culture of the indigenous peoples of California. However, turning to the trees themselves, there is still much to be discovered about these giants.

For example, their process of reproduction is quite unusual. After 2 years of maturing, their seeds cling to branches for up to 20 years until they finally burst open and scatter.

Some say that when a native woman sings to them, dozens respond without fail–showcasing just how interconnected we truly are with nature.

Redwoods have a special relationship with lightning. They need to be struck by lightning to stop growing. When they are struck, a substantial part of the upper crown falls to the ground and burns up. This doesn’t hurt the tree though; in fact, it helps it stay healthy and strong.

Laurinda Reynolds, a storyteller from the Tsalagi tradition, tells a traditional story about how the giant sequoias speak for themselves. In this story, the sequoias teach that peace and respect for nature can be found by listening to the land: “It’s essential to grow in balance; not just physically, but emotionally and mentally too.

We have to take care of what has happened in the past, be mindful of the present moment, and plan for the future. It sounds like a lot, but if we focus on one thing at a time we can achieve anything”.

Redwood Tree Meanings

redwood tree meaning
Redwood tree leaves

Protection from Fire

Not only are these trees fire-resistant, but they can thrive in fire-prone California. You’ll often see a thriving redwood or sequoia with a blackened trunk: an indication that the tree has survived a forest fire.

Additionally, they are unharmed by lightning and even have something of a symbiotic relationship with it.


As previously alluded to, these veteran trees can provide you with a sense of safety and protection, as if you were a small child under the wing of your trusted grandparents.

This is particularly useful for those who constantly feel unsafe or are burdened by anxiety.


The largest tree on earth, the sequoia, grows from the smallest of seeds. Stumps of redwoods are often surrounded by a circle of new sprouts, which they have given birth to even in their state of seeming death.

Perhaps it should be no surprise, then, that sequoias and redwoods are aligned with Jupiter, the planet of expansion.

The notion that redwoods and sequoias will live forever while they continuously expand their deep green foliage creates a sense of luxurious wealth. Their rich red bark provides a additional feeling of this opulence.

If you need to shift your consciousness to one of positive expectation and trust in your supply, meditating on the image of these trees can be especially helpful.


In The Meaning of Trees, Fred Hageneder points out that although cutting down redwoods is no longer illegal, many local tribes still use the tree’s foliage and sap medicinally.

For example, the Pomo tribe uses warmed redwood leaves as poultices for earaches while the Kayasha drinks inner bark water infusions to treat jaundice and cleanse their blood.

Redwoods have long been associated with wisdom and healing, so it’s no surprise that recent studies show spending time near these majestic trees can help prevent health challenges by relieving stress.


In today’s world, it is easy to forget the things that truly matter. We are constantly bombarded with distractions and material possessions that promise us happiness, but never seem to deliver. Sometimes, we need a reminder of what is important in life.

The redwood tree can symbolize all of those things – balance, protection, healing, longevity, and connection with our past present and future.

When you look at a redwood tree, take a moment to appreciate its beauty and remember what is most important in your life.