Chris on Caltrain told me he heard a story on KQED about albino redwoods. I was dubious but they do exist.
Chris told me about it because he knows I live close to Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, where KQED did the story. The main visitor center is just a 10 minute bike ride for me — about the same as driving because I can use a closed road as a shortcut and cut through the Mount Hermon Conference Center. And on bike, entry to California State Parks is free, versus $10 these days to park at many state parks and beaches.
Out of a total of about two dozen albino redwoods known to exist in the world, eight are located at Henry Cowell. A visitor brochure at the park told me one of these trees is on the popular Redwood Loop Trail. I’ve walked the Redwood Loop probably dozens of times, but I never paid much attention to what I previously assumed was just a sickly, dying tree. Once you know where to look, though, its astonishingly stark to see. The albino redwood looks a bit like a scraggly flocked Christmas tree, but on closer examination you can see the needles aren’t dried and dead, but plump and alive.
Albino redwoods struggle to survive because they lack chlorophyll. This is ordinarily a death sentence for plants, but these mutants tap into the root of their parent tree and lives as parasites. A few other trees — poplars, aspen, birch, and birch — are also known to have short lived parasitic albinos.
You can learn more about these magical “ghost trees” (and see a little of where I live) in this KQED “Science on the Spot” video.
QUEST on KQED Public Media.